Sanitary Pads from Banana Stems in Malawi

MUST Students Invent Innovative Sanitary Pads from Banana Stems in Malawi

About the Project

Product Banana Fibre Sanitary Pads
Innovators Ellanive Jalenje
Gomezgani Mtonga
Leonard Mawaya
Phone Number +265 (0) 885 418 172
+265 (0) 992 093 680
+265 (0) 996 731 849
Location Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), Thyolo

Three fifth year students studying metallurgy and material engineering at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), have found a solution to menstrual hygiene using an unexpected resource, banana stems.

23-year-old Ellanive Jalenje, the only female member in the team, drew inspiration of the project from personal struggles.

Raised by a single mother, she recalls how financial constraints caused her to use a piece of cloth as her only means of menstrual survival.

“My father migrated to south Africa when I was little. Therefore, I’ve been raised by my mother who had difficulties providing for me and my sister. I made it through school with the help of well-wishers” she explained.

With the knowledge gained from her course, she searched for better menstruation solutions for women and girls.

She later teamed up with fellow classmates, Gomezgani Mtonga (23) and Leonard Mawaya (24) to create the project.

Their project aims to create biodegradable sanitary pads from banana stems.

They extract the fiber, soak it in water, boil the yarn with chemicals and compress it into a wool like layer that absorbs fluids.

Recognition came when UNICEF awarded them first place in the ‘Battle of the Brains’ competition, providing them funding and materials needed to bring the idea to life.

Currently, the product is still under development stage and awaits funding from UNICEF.

In an interview, Dr. Ravindra Veerapur, Head of Section in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at MUST and supervisor of the project highlighted that banana stems are a promising alternative to plastic since they easily decompose and have a high fluid absorbance rate.

Benefits of the Product

Environmentally Friendly

Unlike the plastic pads, banana fibers decompose rapidly, offering an eco-friendly solution to menstrual waste.

Health Benefits

Traditional plastic pads often cause irritation and expose users to infection. These biodegradable pads prioritize user comfort and safety.

Raw Material Accessibility

Repurposing locally abundant banana stems into a valuable resource.

Challenges the Project Is Facing


Company processes are delaying the allocation of funds.

A situation that puts pressure on the timeline given that this is also the student’s final year project.

Once finalized, the pad will undergo registration by Malawi Bureau of Standards before hitting the market with plans of rural outreach and scaling up production in banana growing regions like Thyolo and Mulanje.

Interview Date: March, 2024