Our first campaigns to improve menstrual hygiene in Ntungamo district focused on secondary schools in the district. We were subsequently informed that we ought to focus on primary schools as the need is greater amongst that age group.
Our menstrual hygiene ambassadors, therefore, visited one Itojo Central Primary school and heard directly from year seven girls and their teacher. The situation here was indeed as bad as we had been told.
Most girls did not have access to hygienic absorbents during their periods and amongst the things they used were, old clothes, rags, banana fibres, leaves, cotton, feathers etc. some amongst the girls, missed school during their periods whilst those who had access to disposal sanitary pads didn’t change them often.
Disposal sanitary towels are expensive to buy and as such most parents encourage their daughters to ensure that one towel lasts 7-9 hours. Inevitability this leads to infections and several of the girls in year seven that use disposal sanitary towels, reported various infections.
The girls were given a reusable menstrual hygiene kit made at our workshop in Itojo sub-county. The kit has two liners and 8 napkins and if used correctly, it lasts three years. The kit comes with a backpack that enables girls to carry their pads discreetly.
Itojo Primary School is one of many schools in the sub-county that do not provide hygienic products for managing periods. The consequences of this, are that a large number of girls drop of school for something that costs as little as £5 and lasts three years.
The lack of access to menstrual hygiene management may mean that nation-states will achieve the following Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12.
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.
The aim of our Menstrual Hygiene Management program is to ensure that girls and women manage their monthly period in a hygienic way. This involves ensuring that girls and women have access to information about menstruation as well as access to clean and safe menstrual absorbents.
Following the set up of the sewing room in Ruhanga our menstrual hygiene ambassadors set off for Kampala for a two week residential course
I arrived in Kampala two weeks later just in time for their graduation.
Our 17 year old Agnes was top of the class.
The graduation was also attended by Gerald Karuhanga MP for Ntungamo district where our ambassadors hail from. In his speech, Karuhanga said that menstrual hygiene is an issue that is very close to his heart and promised to prioritise it during his 5 year term as an MP. He further promised to lobby government to remove import duty on fabrics used to make sanitary towels
International Menstruation Day
May 28 was Intenational Menstrual Hygiene Day and official launch our Menstrual Hygiene program across Ntungamo District. The event was attended by at least 160 including officers from the district as well as the municipality.
The initiative was launched by Karuhanga MP for Ntungamo who promised to work with LTHT to ensure the success of the program across the district
In February this year thirty nine girls from TEAM College received free sanitary packs as part of our trial. We heard from the girls and their Head Teacher on 28 May. They told us the pads had changed their lives whilst their Head Teacher reported reduced absenteeism.
We heard about the Menstrual Hygiene Ambassadors’ experience at the residential course in Kampala, which included participants from Kenya and Ghana and they too shared their experiences. We heard about gruesome practices such as girls being sewn up during their periods, not being allowed to milk cows and digging holes in the ground and using these as a means for managing periods etc
Where are the men in the conversation
As the event progressed it transpired that, hotel security were excluding men from the event on the assumption that this was a women only event. One of the men took exception to this and complained to us. He said
we are the ones that make decisions in the home and you are excluding us from the meeting
He had a point. A point that to goes to explain why in 2016 we still need an International Menstrual Hygiene Day. The fight for access to Menstrual Hygiene and sanitation should include men. We learned from our research that some of fathers believe that spending money on Menstrual Hygiene Management is a waste of money and that boys have a tendency to embarrass and shame girls during their periods
The Hard Work begins here
Now that the training is out of the way, work on producing sanitary towel kits for sell has started. And here are some of the completed products. I hope you are agree with me, when I say, they have done a fab job.
Can you help?
We have come a long way with this project and have set ourselves an ambitious goal of ensuring that every girl and woman in Ntungamo district can access sanitary pads at a reasonable cost.
Please consider supporting our efforts by making a donation via our VIRGIN PAGE
Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health, yet in many cultures it is treated as something negative, shameful or dirty. The continued silence around menstruation combined with limited access to information at home and in schools results in millions of women and girls having very little knowledge about what is happening to their bodies when they menstruate and how to deal with it (source: developmentbookshelf.com)
This statement is true of girls in Ruhanga. We are working to change this and our journey starts here.
This is our new sewing room that will serve as a training room as well as centre of operations.
The local machinist tweaks the sewing machines before the girls are let loose on them. This type of a machine is known as a locker and here the machinist sets it up to ensure that it works and that it is threaded correctly.
With the sewing room set up, an advert went out to invite girls not in education or employment to attend an assessment day.
These are three of teenage girls that were selected to become ambassadors of our menstrual hygiene program. They will be put through an intensive training program including a a two week residential course in Kampala.
With no time to waste, work got under way and here the girls are practising their sanitary pads making skills
Agnes cutting out pattens
Team work- Letricia and Agnes threading the finishing machine
Letricia was a late addition to the team. She has caught up. This is the first liner she made independently.
As well learning how to make sanitary pads, the girls are learning about managing money. These skills will be essential to the sustainability of the project. More about this in future posts
This journey has been made possible by Jenn who run the London Marathon in aid of Menstrual Hygiene Management. The money she raised has gone towards the setting up of the sewing room. Jenn completed the London Marathon in 5 Hours 6 minutes. You can still contribute to Jenn’s campaign at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JenniferDutton1
My name is Jenn Dutton. I am 23 years old and a full time nanny. I love to cook, bake and travel. On April 24th 2016, I will be racing in one of the great British sporting events, the Virgin Money London Marathon on behalf of LTHT. The London Marathon is a gruelling 26 miles 385 yards long, passing through the streets of London from Blackheath to the famous finish line at The Mall.
Why am I doing the London Marathon?
I love to set myself challenges and believe that you must always push yourself and try new things. I really enjoy running and exploring new places with it.
Rural girls in Uganda miss several days of school per year due to lack of sanitary towels. This, in turn, leads to many girls school results suffering and some girls even dropping out of school as a result.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make a difference to such girls if we work together
I like the unique ways in which LTHT works to improve the daily lives and futures of the women in Ruhanga . This inspires me greatly to train my hardest and give the marathon my all.
I hope to raise a lot of money for this small charity so they can help the people of Ruhanga to help themselves.
It has been widely accepted within the Post 2015 discourse that to impact poverty in future, it will be necessary to create conditions that can provide capabilities and an enabling environment that will ensure that people can take charge of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty. Read more
It has been widely accepted within the Post 2015 discourse that to impact poverty in future, it will be necessary to create conditions that can provide capabilities and an enabling environment that will ensure that people can take charge of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.
The young people from Itojo Sub County suffer from under employed mainly due to lack of skills. Through the Skills Development Initiative, we seek to address the issue of worklessness and poverty amongst the youth by ensuring that they acquire marketable and transferable skills to enable them to have an equitable chance of accessing work and/or creating their own employment opportunities in the local economy.
In the last post, I provided you with an update on our Introduction to Computing for rural communities workshops. This post is about the tailoring workshops.
The initial take up of the tailoring workshops has been low with only four boys and eight girls choosing this workshop.
But according to Alex this picture is deceiving as end of term feedback has indicated that in fact many of those taking part in the computing workshops would rather be in the tailoring workshop. This will be addressed after the Easter break and in consultation with participants.
As part of our sanitation program, we have been very keen to improve menstrual hygiene amongst teenage girls in Ruhanga and one of the products from the first tailoring workshops is handmade sanitary towels.
A key aspect of the workshop has been ensuring that participants can cut fabric and operate a sewing machine
Komujuni Daphine, is 14 years and about to leave Primary School. She is interested in acquiring tailoring skills because as someone from a poor background, she is unlikely to continue in formal education. This is because her parents would not afford the fees. She hopes that, the tailoring skills gained through this initiative would help her start her own business or access work somewhere else.
Daphine’s reasons for being part of the tailoring workshops sum up reasons why initiatives such as this are needed. What hope is their for rural girls such as Daphine whose parents can’t afford to pay for further education?
The community-based centre where the tailoring workshops are delivered is now in need of expansion to meet demand and, as such, we now require a further classroom to ensure the girls such as Daphine have the necessary access to the training and equipment they require.
A few months ago we teamed up with Memuna and Sadia of the Lunchboxgift initiative to fight ebola in Sierra Leone. The initiative was born out of the Ebola epidemic in the Western part of Africa. Ebola has turned the lives of many upside down to the extent that some can’t access a cooked meal let alone a nutritious one. Read more
A big thank you to those that attended our fundraising event and or donated to the sanitation matters to girls campaign. Access to a toilet is something that most take for granted but 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to a toilet so we are grateful for your support with this project Read more