A Port Elizabeth fashion designer is using his excess fabric to try to ease the stress of women who battle to afford sanitary protection.
Lwazi Mema (24) is a big believer in the saying charity begins at home. When lockdown hit and the livelihoods of many of his female relatives dried up, he grew increasingly worried when he saw they were unable to afford sanitary pads.
So he took matters into his own hands.
Instead of concentrating on his usual clothing projects, he started stitching a different pattern and using his spare fabric to make reusable pads. “I made my first five pads and gave them to my family members to try out,” Lwazi says.
The women were delighted and gave him positive feedback about how comfortable the pads were and how reusable ones would save so much money.
Lwazi realised he could use his skills for greater good: making and donating the pads to less fortunate girls and women.“
So I did some research to try to get better material and I’m also busy applying for my pads to be approved by South African Bureau of Standards,” Lwazi says.
But he isn’t being idle while he waits. Lwazi has already made and donated about 500 pads, which he hopes have made a difference in the lives of those who received them.
He works with friends Bhongo Funde (24) and Zenande Stofu (23), who help him distribute the pads at a mall in one of PE’s townships. The pads can be used over a period of three months and are nine layers thick, he explains.
He uses two layers of 100% cotton, one of bamboo velour, one layer of waterproof fabric, one of super-absorbent Zorb fabric, one of organic cotton, one of polyurethane laminate and two fleece layers.
“The Zorb is like a sponge and the soft waterproof fabric is similar to the one used in raincoats, so there is no leakage,” he says.
He recently started a foundation with a representative from the SA Bureau of Standards where they educate women and girls on how to maintain and wash the pads.
Lwazi also started a crowdfunding project, to try to raise funds to make more sanitary pads for those in need. He first became aware of the plight of women who couldn’t afford sanitary protection when he was a student in Johannesburg in 2015, he says.
Many women he studied with could barely afford their tuition, let alone sanitary pads and he was deeply moved, he says. He vowed one day he would do something to help them. And now he has.