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.
In our next intervention, we revisited an issue we had been working on since 2014- Menstrual Hygiene Management. Our objective under this program is to ensure that girls and women manage their periods 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.
This program also provides employment for three local young women. It is our ambition to ensure that this program is accessible to girls and women across the district of Ntungamo
Widows and the goat loan project
Under this project we are working in collaboration with the NGO Joy Goat Development, to introduce a new breed of dairy goats into Ruhanga parish. The main beneficiaries of this program are widows, who will receive a 50% cross breed female dairy goat as a loan. They will be responsible to care for the goat until it produces the first kid.
Once the first births are weaned, the off springs will be returned to LTHT and the women at that point will be given sole ownership over the initial goat. This goat will then become an asset that the woman can use to generate income, support herself and her family through;
continuous sale of the goat’s offspring,
sale of goat’s milk
or improve the nutritional intake of their family if they opt for personal consumption.
Once the kids have been returned to LTHT, the female goats will be given to the next widow, while the male goats will be sold, using the profits to purchase more female goats so the cycle continues even if on-going sponsorship is unavailable.
On top of that, the whole community will also benefit from this program via a cross breeding program. .
Local female goats will mate with pure male dairy goats with a view to creating off-springs that can produce a meaningful amount of milk. This will improve the community’s nutritional intake radically.
We will spend the next few weeks getting the community ready for this program before the goats arrive, Keep an eye on this space for updates.
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