KAMPALA – Up to 50,000 Ugandan lives will be significantly improved after the Ugandan Red Cross Society partnered with a UK charitable foundation to build a manufacturing plant for re-usable sanitary pads.
Thanks to significant grant funding from the Randal Charitable Foundation the plant in Namakwa, Mukono district of Uganda, will also create employment opportunities for over 200 vulnerable girls and women who will be trained to make and market the pads.
Once fully established, the plant will manufacture 200,000 re-usable pads per year, which is an equivalent of 50,000 4-pad packs. Around 20 percent of the pads will be given to 10,000 vulnerable girls in-school free of charge. The remaining 80 percent will be commercialised to 40,000 girls and women in the wider community at a subsidised price, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of the manufacturing facility.
Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, Founder and Chair of Trustees of the Randal Charitable Foundation, said: “Our mission is to directly save and significantly improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society in the UK and globally.
“This project is so beneficial to the community because without access to high quality sanitary pads and toilets, or washrooms for changing, many girls and women are not able to go far from their homes.
“The consequence of this is that they often cannot attend school, and in many cases become trapped in their homes unable to earn a living to support their families.
“We are delighted with our partnership with the Ugandan Red Cross Society because the manufacturing facility will have the dual benefits of ensuring girls are able to stay in school to gain a good education, and in many cases a future free of extreme poverty. It will also deliver sustainable skilled employment to the women and girls involved in the production and sale of the pads.”
The grant funding will support the setting up of the manufacturing facility to produce reusable sanitary pads and the training and up-skilling of selected girls and women to make them. It will then fund capacity building to involve more girls and women in specific skills, such as record keeping and marketing, as well as support supervision and monitoring.
After acquiring the required production skills, each female trainee is targeted to produce 50 reusable pads per day, which equates to 1,000 per year. Once the first group of 20 trainees have mastered the skills to produce the reusable pads, they will then recruit another group of 20 to expand their labour force.
The project is part of a collaboration between the Uganda Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Education & Sports and partners, which in 2019 launched a countrywide initiative named Keep a Girl in School. The main aim of this project is to improve Menstrual Health Management among Primary and Secondary School going adolescents in vulnerable communities.
During the implementation of the project, URCS is partnering with She for She, which is an indigenous organisation whose goal is to ensure that every menstruator can attend school by improving access to pads and providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights education.
She for She has experience in training community groups to sew pads and partnering with established local organisations to provide education and dialogue on menstruation and related Menstrual Hygiene Management. While the first set of materials will be imported, the Society will advocate for in-country factories to start producing the materials locally.
Robert Kwesiga, Secretary General of the Uganda Red Cross Society, said: “I would like to thank the Randal Charitable Foundation for their significant support for the humanitarian cause to keep more girls in school through manufacturing, good sanitation, and provision of pads.
“As a result of a lack of access to hygienic sanitary wear, girls and women in the community often resort to using inappropriate materials such as rugs torn from their old clothes, papers, pieces of old mattress foam and leaves. And in some cases, in rural communities, they become house bound, and forced to sit over a hole dug in the middle of their mud floors until the menstrual flow ends. School going girls who get blood on their clothes are also often teased by teachers, boys, or other girls, and this has been reported as a significant cause of school dropouts for girls. “
Keep a Girl in School is also part of the Uganda Red Cross Society Health and Social Service Agenda under Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Interventions – which plays a crucial role around key issues such as health, education, protection and security of women and adolescent girls, both in emergency and in the development context.