A year ago we set up a sewing room with a view to address the lack of skills amongst girls in Ntungamo District in SW Uganda. Our focus would be on girls aged between 17- 25 Not in Education, Employment or Training, the so called NEETS.
We set up a sewing room and invited girls from the village to come hang out with us, The results were amazing
Last month, we invited a new set of girls to join the program. It was heartening to see parents turn up with their girls. We were surprised by how young this group of girls are.
This is Abias and Catherine and they are 16 and 15. Both are being raised by single mothers and did not finish their primary school education.
This is 15 year old Olivious and 17 year old Marion. They both completed Primary school but were unable to continue in further education due to lack of school fees.
The girls have hit the ground running and their first task to to find their way around a sewing machine.
78% of Uganda’s population is under 30 years of age and sadly the incidence of unemployment amongst this age group is high. This has implications for poverty levels amongst the youth and some of the reasons for this are due to a lack of skills.
Our skills program for NEETS seeks to mitigate both poverty and unemployment amongst girls in Itojo sub-county. We currently do not have space to offer a wide range of skills and can only take in 15 girls a year on our sewing program. We would like to change this by scaling the program and you can help us by making a donation at our Virgin Page
If you are a regular here, you will recall that following the success of the first micro poultry program called Send a Chicken to African womanwe launched a second program in December of last year.
This second program has been a challenge in ways that we never expected. The first challenge was to do with very heavy rain that meant that the women found it hard to keep the chicks warm. The second challenge was avian flu.
As a result of these challenges, some of the chicks died leaving the women with roughly 8 chicks out of 15 and the price of eggs fell as nearby countries stopped buying eggs from Uganda.
Notwithstanding those challenges, the women have now started selling the eggs from the project and on average they are earning £1.66 per tray. In Uganda a tray of eggs is made up of 30 eggs and the women are collecting unto 8 eggs a day. We would ordinarily expect a tray of eggs to sell at £2.60 but for the problems mentioned above.
But we still have some good news.
For instance Dezranta Nyakato, a 59 year old woman is currently earning £3.32 a week from selling eggs. She used to earn 51p a week prior to joining this initiative.
Our initial aim for her, was to increase her income to £1.75 a week as it is the income a woman in her village needs to send three kids to school per term and feed her family. This has exceeded our expectations and for that we are truly grateful for your support.
I caught up withe women at the end of May and most reported that they were very happy to have eggs to sell as they had no income prior to taking part in this program and also as part of their diet. Whilst here in the West we are discouraged from eating too many eggs, in villages such as Rwentojo, an egg as part of one’s diet is a real luxury.
The next steps are an experiment to see if the women can hatch chicks from this breed of chickens. This is because this is not ordinarily possible without an incubator but it is apparently achievable if the hens go from a semi intensive program to a full free range feeding program. Some amongst the women already have their hens on a full free range program whilst some don’t.
The theme of this year’s International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) was education. The founders of MHD argue that education on menstrual hygiene changes everything. They call for improved information and menstrual hygiene education for boys, men, teachers, health workers and other professionals so that they can break down negative social norms and provide accurate information and support.
They have argued for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene management as a critical component of reproductive health training for adolescents, building the capacity of teachers to teach about MHM with comfort, the breaking down of taboos around periods, the availability of water and sanitation facilities in schools and work places in order that women and girls have privacy and dignity as well as policies that reduce the cost of menstrual absorbents and are kind to the environment.
We have spent the past year looking at access menstrual hygiene in schools in Ntungamo district SW Uganda . The program focuses on the provision of information on menstrual hygiene as well as ensuring that girls can access menstrual absorbents.
In the course of the year we learned that 53% of girls we spoke to did not know what a period is before they experienced it. 42% of the girls regularly miss between 2-5 days of school each month during their period because they do not have access to sanitary products.
We also learned that some amongst the girls use unsanitary products such as old rags, mattress stuffing etc. during their periods.
Education about menstrual hygiene should concern us all. As part of this year’s MHD activities in Ntungamo, we distributed free Menstrual Hygiene kits to women in the village of Rwentojo SW Uganda. We have been working with this group of women on income generation.
This got me thinking about the role of business in the promotion of menstrual hygiene. For instance, how and where does business fit into the promotion of menstrual hygiene? Is it through their supply chains or perhaps in places of work? Is this even an issue that business concerns itself with?
Do employers for instance, provide flexible working conditions that enable women that suffer painful periods to take time off or work from home should they need to? What about access to female only washrooms?
In my opinion, that sort of statistic would have huge implications for a business’s bottom line because it would impact productivity and outputs.
Menstruation hygiene matters to business in other but perhaps subtle ways such as the availability of skilled workers. Businesses need skilled people to grow and thrive and this cannot be achieved if the education system is not producing the necessary skills or female employees miss workdays due to periods.
With respect to education, in countries such as Uganda, access to Primary School Education is free under the Universal Primary Education initiative, but gaps exist in addressing issues that prevent girls from dropping out of school and some of these reasons are to do with poor menstrual hygiene management in schools.
This includes the availability of water, toilets, washrooms and hygienic menstrual products. It is not enough to increase school registration for girls who then drop out due to a lack of menstrual hygiene management.
In the long run this has direct implications for a country’s economic development due to a large number of girls who become adults that are trapped in poverty due to a lack of skills which they can use to create their own employment or access employment elsewhere.
The founders of MHD have argued, that in order for countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12, nation states must pay attention to menstrual hygiene management. This being the case; Governments, Civil Society as well as Business should take menstrual hygiene management seriously.