We occasionally train in production, but we have found that most organisations are interested in this activity to generate income for rural women and we have learned that unfortunately, cloth pad making ends up being a loss making undertaking when the target group for the product is economically disadvantaged women.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- Firstly, cloth pads are not a cheap product to manufacture – the raw material costs (pure cotton and leakproofing), stitching charges and overheads associated with pad production make a cost price below Rs100 difficult to achieve.
- The next problem then becomes selling the pad due to the stiff competition with disposable pads which are seen as more cost effective, convenient, and also seem cheaper (although in the long run cloth pads are actually cost saving).
- Lastly, women often have a hard time to understand and appreciate the up front cost for cloth pads – explaining this requires a serious time investment and makes cloth pads a rather “hard sell”.
Eco Femme has developed a cross subsidy model, where we sell the cloth pads for a premium price to a high end market which enables us to cross subsidise for economically disadvantaged women at a price they are comfortable to pay (usually about Rs. 50). Check the programme page for more information.
The only way manufacturing cloth pads as a rural enterprise can be viable is if an organisation has funds to offset the losses incurred in production. Another very important point is that to begin to make this a viable income generating activity, it is more important to focus efforts on building the market through educating women and girls about the benefits of cloth pads – in other words, building the market is a crucial step towards creating the conditions for a potentially successful income generation activity.
We therefore encourage organisations to really look towards encouraging women and girls to switch to cloth pads for health and environmental reasons first and when there is sufficient uptake of the product, production may be viable down the track, especially if there is institutional support for mitigate financial losses that will come with a gap between cost price and willingness to pay.