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Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh meets TU Dublin students’ who created award-winning Menstrual Toolkit for refugees

Posted: 18 January, 2019

Globally 1.25 billion women do not have access to sanitary products or underwear so they use cloth, leaves, rags, or tin cans, but two young TU Dublin Graduates are hoping that a menstrual toolkit they have designed will help to improve the lives of some of these women, in particular refugees. Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh spoke to one of the designers, Olivia Holbrook, in an interview on 'Bláthnaid Libh' on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Saturday 19th January about the product, TIDE, which won the 2018 'Where there is no Engineer' competition.

TIDE Toolkit Web
Rachel Ryan and Olivia Holbrook, Product Design students with the TIDE Menstrual Toolkit for Refugees

The TIDE menstrual toolkit comprises underwear, four reusable sanitary towels and info-graphic instructions and is contained in a small capsule which is also a washing device.  

 “We saw the plight of these women, with the refugee crisis, and although a lot of people are trying to help the refugees there isn’t much focus on women, or on sanitation for them  during their period ... so that’s why we started there, to see how we could help.”

Olivia is one member of a group of four who began work originally on the product as part of a project in their fourth year of Product Design at DIT.  In the interview with Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh for RTÉRnaG, Olivia explained that the final design was the result of extensive research, during which they met with displaced women from around the world who have now settled in Ireland. 

“We thought maybe the organic diva cups would be a solution ... but then we learned from our research and speaking to the women that, in their cultures, they wouldn’t use anything that had to go inside the body, for example... So we took all the different cultural norms that the women abided by, which we realised weren’t going to change, and we said that they all had to be a consideration in the design. We narrowed it down to six principals – for example, in some cultures you can’t touch the blood, so we incorporated that into the design.”

“When we went to speak to the women, we were nervous that they would be embarrassed or wouldn’t speak to us ... but once we were together and they were comfortable, they opened up to us.  We learned about what understanding they had of menstruation, and that they often weren’t allowed to speak about it so they didn’t have much education on what to do, or how to manage it ... for example some women used leaves.”

The TIDE toolkit design won the 'Where there is no Engineer' competition in June 2018, and following their win, Olivia, from Blackrock, Co. Dublin, and Rachael Ryan, from Laytown, Co. Meath, decided to continue with the development of the TIDE Menstrual toolkit, with design and financial support from Engineers Without Borders.  

Both Concern and Action Aid are interested in the product and Olivia and Rachael hope to travel with them to refugee camps later this year to introduce it to the communities there.   

The interview with Olivia Holbrook was broadcast on Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh’s programme 'Bláthnaid Libh' on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Saturday 19th January from 10.30-12p.m. 

Listen to radio clip here

A video showing Olivia demonstrating to Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh how the product can be used is available to download here.