Menstrual Hygiene Management program is launched

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.

 

Menstrual Hygiene
Letricia, Maria, Agnes and Allen setting off for Kampala

Following the set up of the sewing room in Ruhanga our menstrual hygiene ambassadors set off for Kampala for a  two week residential course

menstrual hygiene management
Gerald Karuhanga, MP for Ntungamo Municipality and Ida Horner, LTHT Chairperson discussing with Diana Nampeera, Days for Girls country director the effectiveness of the washable sanitary pads]

I arrived in Kampala two weeks later  just in time for their graduation.

Menstrual hygiene
Agnes receives her certificate from MP Gerald Karuhanga

Our 17 year old Agnes was top of the class.

menstruation day
Graduation day

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

Menstrual Hygiene
Menstrual Hygiene Day launch

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.

Menstrual Hygiene Day
Mp Gerald Karuhanga launches LTHT’s Menstrual Hygiene program

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

Menstrual Hgyiene
Student from TEAM College shares her experience

 

In February this year thirty nine girls from heard 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.

May 28 Menstruation day
Graduation Day

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

 

Menstruation matters
Men at launch day

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

Allen and Agnes working on sanitary pad kits
Allen and Agnes working on sanitary pad kits

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.

Menstrual hygiene
Finished wings

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

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/sanitarypads4girls

Menstrual Hygiene in rural Uganda

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have come to an end and world leaders are currently in New York where they are discussing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace them in January 2016.

There is a specific goal about women,

Goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Rural women and girls in Uganda still face huge challenges including, availability of jobs, not being included in the decision-making process, inability to negotiate individual rights in and outside the home as well as political discourse.

It is my view that some of these challenges persist due to social and economic exclusion of women, as well as political will that means resources are not set aside to address women’s issues.

An example of an issue that impacts women and girls that but is often neglected is menstrual hygiene.

After hearing and reading about rural girls missing several school days a year due lack of access to sanitary towels we decided to explore how this issue could be resolved.

It seemed to us that, if girls are missing school days, this implies poor school results or girls dropping out of the education system leading to inability to access formal employment and in turn high incidences of poverty amongst rural women and girls.

Menstrual Hygiene
Seamstress and the girls cutting up fabric for homemade sanitary towels

Our approach was mostly practical. We provided fabric for making sanitary towels and sewing machines and a local woman started making up homemade sanitary towels for school age girls.

By the end of 6 months, 37 girls had received free homemade sanitary towels and we wanted to find out what impact if any the towels had on their lives.

Menstrual Hygiene
These are some of the girls that benefited from the trial

Alex, our colleague in Uganda sat down with some of the girls to find out how they got on with the homemade sanitary towels and here is their discussion

Impact of reusable pads on the welfare of girls in Ruhanga

The girls reported the following to have been the impact of reusable pads on their welfare and the welfare of the community.

  • Missed school days: There has been reduced school absenteeism as a number of girls used to miss lessons during their monthly periods. This would stem from the fact that their peers would bully them when bloodstains are seen on their dresses.
  • The reduced school absenteeism has slightly increased the performance of girls.

One respondent had this to say.

“There was a time I missed a midterm test because I didn’t have sanitary pads. I live with my father and when I asked for money for sanitary towels. He told me, he had no money to waste on “useless” materials. I was afraid of being humiliated. I had recently witnessed the humiliation of a girl in my class due to an accidental leak that left a blood mark on her chair.  I didn’t have to face such humiliation because of free sanitary pads. As a result, I performed well last term having been able to attend all the lessons including the days I was in my periods. ”

  • Cost: The free sanitary pads distributed to the schoolgirls around Ruhanga have helped their parents financially and the savings were put towards scholastic materials. A packet of disposable sanitary pads in Uganda costs 4,000 Ugandan shillings (0.79 pence’s). On average a girl uses 6 packets in a term, at a cost of approximately 24,000,Ugandan Shillings (£4.72). With the free reusable sanitary pads, parents have been able to save some money that is put towards other things that girls needs.
  • Environment: The girls further point to the sustainability of the environment. One of them said the re usable sanitary pads were helping them to conserve the environment around their school since they did not need to throw away used pads.

This what one of the girls had to say;

We have been having problems with our latrines getting filled quickly (and sometimes having a funny smell) because some girls would dispose their used sanitary pads therein.[1]

Some girls reported that disposable sanitary towels left them with infections and this had improved as a result of using re usable sanitary pads. One respondent said;

The disposable towels did not always keep me dry. I used one towel a day as I didn’t have enough money to buy enough towels to enable me to change several times a day. As a result, I suffered infections.

Having access to reusable sanitary towels has meant, that I can change as often as I need to and this improved hygiene has meant I no longer have infections resulting from the over use of one towel. These towels have saved me money too.

The girls love the red colour of the sanitary pads and some reported that it has helped them the mood swings associated with monthly periods. One respondent had this to say;

I like bright colours as they build my confidence and personality. The red colour of the reusable towels lifts my mood and doesn’t show stains.

 Challenges faced when using the re usable sanitary pads

 

Menstrual Hygiene day
Homemade sanitary towels

The respondents cited the following challenges experienced in using the reusable sanitary towels made through Skills Development Initiative;

  • The re usable pads are not yet of good quality as there are hand made by girls who are learning on the job. Consequently some users found the towels uncomfortable to use
  • There are issues of privacy for those in boarding school as to the towels had be washed and hang out to dry.
Baby Lock sewing machine
Our girls checking out their new sewing machine

Following this feedback, Paige and I had a chance to meet some of the girls and their mothers in Ruhanga. Through our conversations, we learned that some women had no income for most part of the year and as such, have no access to disposable towels and have to improvise during that time of the month.

This means using old pieces of cloth as sanitary towels and for the girls 2 or 3 days off school.

When we explored the issue of cost and hygiene, it became apparent that both women and girls are prone to infections because they do not change soiled towels throughout the day.

We were unable to determine precisely whether this was due to the cost of the towels or general knowledge/understanding of menstrual hygiene but concluded that it was a combination of the two.

Whilst I appreciate that SDGs are merely a development framework, I worry that issues such as, menstrual hygiene that impact women in profound ways will continue to fall through the proverbial development crack if we don’t take action to address them.

The next steps for us are to find ways to scale this programme to enable women and girls to enable women to access low cost sanitary towels.

 

You can support our journey by making a donation at

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/skills4girls

 

[1] From the Focus Group Discussion held on 3 July, 2015 at Ruhanga Skills Centre.

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Menstrual Hygiene Day

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