Washable, reusable pads keep thousands of girls in school

Sherie de Wet with some of the Palesa pads she manufactures. Picture: Supplied

Sherie de Wet with some of the Palesa pads she manufactures. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 21, 2023


“I read an article saying that girls were missing three to five days of school because they didn’t have pads and then thought about that,” said Sherie de Wet, the founder of the washable and reusable sanitary pad brand Palesa pads.

“Pads are expensive but I never stopped to think about what these girls do if they don’t have pads. I couldn't stop thinking about that. I started doing research and I tell you, I cried.”

This shocking statistic and the plight of girls who cannot afford sanitary pads is what prompted De Wet to start her business.

She began to do her research and was appalled to find out what young girls resorted to using as a result of being unable to afford or access sanitary pads.

“It’s terrible. Grass, sand, socks, foam mattresses, and cow dung. It’s unbelievable. I watched so many videos, it’s unreal what these girls go through. I thought this is ‘it’. This is what I’m going to do,” De Wet said.

After extensive research, she found out about washable pads and decided that this was the most viable solution to remedy the problem.

She planned to source the pads, resell, and use the profits to help fund a corporate social initiative. She would soon find out that it was easier said than done.

“I went around to see a couple of manufacturers and I was so disappointed, the quality was so bad. I couldn’t expect someone else to use those pads because I wouldn’t use them. I then found others that looked much nicer but they were very expensive, and completely out of reach for the average person.

“That is when I realised that there is a gap in the market for something of good quality but also affordable. I decided to see if I could make that happen.”

“Fortunately, I know how to sew. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube, got some ideas and started making these pads,” De Wet said.

She tried out the first prototypes for about six months to ensure that she had a product worthy of taking to market. By the time she reached version 12 of her product, she was happy enough to allow others to try her Palesa pads.

The culmination of De Wet’s hard work is an eco-friendly sanitary pad that is both washable and reusable.

Every Palesa pad replaces up to 200 single-use sanitary pads.

Employees at the Palesa pads factory. Picture: Supplied

The Palesa pads product range consists of five sizes of pads for various flows.

De Wet’s business has continued to grow and this has resulted in her being approached by retail giants Ackermans and most recently Pick ’n Pay to supply them with her sanitary pads. Palesa pads can now be found countrywide.

“They found me, they were researching local manufacturers and came across my brand and wanted to know if I would like to participate in the selection process. I had already been working on packaging, I was working on it to try to get a retail deal going,” she said.

She delivered her first order of 50 000 pads to Ackermans and never looked back. From her factory in Meyerton, De Wet now produces these life-changing products and employs nine people.

Most importantly, she has been able to achieve what she had initially set out to do, to make a difference in the lives of girls. Palesa pads have been able to benefit nearly 113 000 schoolgirls.

Through her corporate partnerships, De Wet continues to make it possible for more girls to stay in school through her “Keep A Girl Child in School” campaign.

“I have had such amazing support from the mines, from the banks, NGOs, just from all over… It’s been so incredible,” she said.

Despite her success, De Wet still has ambitions to reach greater heights and wants Palesa pads to become a household name and the front-runner when it comes to reusable sanitary pads.

“I want it to be so well known, that no matter what brand you come across, you call it a Palesa pad,” she said.

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