Bypassing Underwear in Reusable Pad Design

A Video Demonstration by The MoonCatcher Project

Written By: Sophie B. (IMHER Research Assistant)

Edited By: Jennifer W. (IMHER Research Assistant)


As discussed in a recent blog post by IMHER, the vast majority of organizations that donate menstrual products to low-income menstruators distribute pads designed to attach to underwear.  As a result, girls without underwear cannot use any pads given to them. 

A recent analysis of this topic by IMHER showed that about one-third of pad-donating organizations in our database also donate underwear to girls in need.  The challenge is that underwear donations can add significant cost, which can mean that these organizations can serve fewer girls.  Moreover, with the need to provide underwear in different sizes, the inclusion of underwear in menstrual kits can also introduce some distributional challenges. There may be sound reasons to donate underwear in conjunction with menstrual products; however, given the considerable costs that can be involved, it also seems useful to explore alternatives.

In this post, IMHER takes a look at an innovative approach to addressing the “no underwear” challenge in a different way: an underwear-optional reusable pad design created by The MoonCatcher Project.

A Video Demonstration of the MoonCatcher Design

To learn more about their innovative pad design, IMHER reached out to Ellie von Wellsheim, the founder of The MoonCatcher Project.  In response, Ellie generously agreed to make the video featured at the top of this post to demonstrate the design of their pad directly to IMHER readers. 

We are delighted to share her video with you, both because it so effectively describes a pad design innovation that might generate other “outside of the box” ideas by others doing this work, and because the inclusion of user-created videos for “deep dives” into specific issues facing MH organizations showcases the potential for IMHER to facilitate peer-to-peer information sharing through this website.

Background on The MoonCatcher Project

Founded by von Wellsheim in 2011, The MoonCatcher Project makes and donates free, belted, reusable menstrual pads in “MoonCatcher Kits” at a cost of just over $5 USD.

They also partner with organizations on the ground in developing countries to establish sewing cooperatives, where local women make and distribute MoonCatcher Kits in their communities.

Menstrual education is a component of their work as well. The kit donations in Africa and India are accompanied by educational classes on menstruation management and reproductive health.

Valuing Local Culture in Innovation

The MoonCatcher Project design is related to some of the belt-based traditional options that are sometimes used as workarounds in communities where underwear is more discretionary and/or unaffordable. However, it does so with a pad that offers more comfort and protection from leakage (by using a Tyvek or equivalent waterproof barrier) than most local handmade options.

As such, the design appears to be a promising product that merges the practices of some regions with the benefits of newer pad designs.  The MoonCatcher Project is a good reminder that great innovation can sometimes come out of learning from local cultural practices, rather than only from ideas put forth by large companies that do not always prioritize the needs of low-income individuals.

Community Idea Generation

The pad design described above demonstrates one cost-effective option for addressing limited access to underwear by girls during their periods.  Do you know of other design options, or “hacks” (i.e., homemade designs) that allow girls without underwear to use reusable or disposable pads?     

Help to build innovation in this arena by adding your thoughts to the comments section below, and let IMHER know about innovations you have seen for underwear-optional pad designs here.