Posts

AFRIpads in Uganda
Sophia and Paul Grinvalds created AFRIpads in Uganda while they were living in a remote village there in 2010 and saw the lack of accessible menstrual products firsthand. To combat the scarcity of menstrual products and the stigma periods carried in the country, the Grinvalds invented an affordable and reusable menstrual pad. AFRIpads in Uganda promote hygienic and accessible menstrual health in order to educate and empower young girls in the nation and across the world to feel comfortable and safe during their periods.

AFRIpads in Uganda

Today, AFRIpads employs over 200 Ugandans in the country’s full-time, formal employment sector. In addition, it has impacted millions of girls all over the world with its sustainable and affordable products. The company has helped the environment by eliminating the use of approximately 190 million disposable pads, as women can use each AFRIpad for up to a year.

In addition to helping the environment and giving back to the country’s economy, AFRIpads is helping empower the women of Uganda by focusing on educating schoolgirls about healthy and natural period habits. Menstrual health education is a taboo topic in Ugandan culture, and schools have never formally taught it. However, AFRIpads is helping to turn this around by providing use and care guides, as well as an educational comic in all of the brand’s menstrual kits. The company also offers online training for adults to learn how to teach young girls about the menstrual cycle.

Co-founder Sophia Grinvalds told the Irish Times that “There’s misconceptions about losing your fertility if you do certain things when you have your period…In one part of the country there’s a belief that if a girl on her period, or a woman on her period, walks through your garden when you’re growing vegetables, that everything in your garden will die.”

Employment

Grinvalds and her team decided to base AFRIpads in the Ugandan village Kitengeesa in order to deliberately boost the rural economy. Women make up 90% of the company’s employees, giving these women an opportunity for greater independence with their own incomes. “They have bank accounts at Barclay’s, have savings accounts, are saving for the government pension plan, [and are paying taxes],” Grinvalds told NPR in an interview.

The Kitengeesa manufacturing base for AFRIpads in Uganda provides a sense of community for the workers who feel proud to involve themselves in the organization’s impactful mission. In addition, it empowers women by allowing them to economically support their goals. A testimony by AFRIpads’ production supervisor Judith Nassaka stated that “The best thing about AFRIpads is that there is strong teamwork among the employers and employees…They also pay me the best salary. My future plan is to buy a plot of land and build my own home.”

Future Plans for Outreach

AFRIpads also collaborates with several other international nonprofit organizations such as Girls Not Brides, an organization that advocates to end child marriages and seeks to empower young girls. Through partnerships like these, women are able to access educational resources, affordable products and advocate for themselves.

AFRIpads stated on its website that it has reached more than 3.5 million girls and women across the globe with reusable and affordable products. AFRIpads continues to educate girls and women about the menstrual cycle and safe hygiene practices, in addition to providing employment in developing areas of Uganda. This, in turn, can help combat environmental waste across the world.

– Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Support Women in PovertyHelping those in need begins with the basics. The same is true when it comes to helping women in poverty. There are simple, actionable ways to change the lives of these marginalized groups. Becoming mindful consumers, giving to reputable charities and raising an impactful voice are ways to support women in poverty.

Mindful Consumption

One should be mindful of where their purchases come from when they purchase food, drink or clothing. Becoming a conscious consumer can directly support women in poverty. It is a simple lifestyle choice that results in purposeful outcomes.

Many jobs and markets exploit women by giving women unfair prices for the goods they produce or work in unsafe environments. Fairtrade is one of the leading establishments coming together to ensure women around the world are not taken advantage of. This cooperative set forth stringent standards on what qualifies as responsibly sourced goods. Items that qualify carry the “Fairtrade Mark,” which allows consumers to know they are spending money where it counts the most.

The sourcing of general products may originate from human trafficking rings. In these rings, forced labor produces goods. When consumers purchase items that have unethical roots, they inadvertently fund those crimes to continue. More than 70 percent of individuals that endure trafficking are females and they must work under horrifying conditions without pay. Consumers can download and use applications like Free2Work, which informs the public of the behind-the-scenes of where their money goes.

Charity

Financially supporting nonprofits with missions to uplift women out of poverty is crucial. Various reputable nonprofits focus on a wide range of obstacles that women face. A core issue is making sure these women have the available resources necessary to receive an education. Funding for schools in impoverished rural areas is one battle. However, females encounter other challenges that cause them to miss or stop attending school altogether.

Girls around the world who lack access to menstrual education and products miss at least one week of schooling every month during her period. This holds girls back and can lead to them dropping out of school altogether. The organization AFRIpads recognizes this crisis and has made it its mission to address it. AFRIpads supplies reusable menstruation pads to regions where girls do not have access to sanitary products. With this simple and effective solution, many girls can attend class no matter the time of the month. Small donations to a cause like AFRIpad’s will help the continued support of women in poverty.

Another reason girls drop out of school is due to unplanned pregnancies. Nonprofits like Global Health Partnerships (GHP) prioritize providing birth control to women and empowering family planning. When The Borgen Project had a chance to speak with the Vice President of GHP, Dr. Ruth O’Keefe, she spoke about the impact that providing Depo shots to villages in Kenya makes. “I’ve never seen a calendar in anyone’s house, but they all know exactly when it’s time to get their next shot,” she said. It is evident that GHP has empowered women to utilize family planning. Meaningful causes to support women in poverty like GHP’s become sustainable through donations.

Voice

When it comes to fighting for the underdog, every voice matters. Writing to members of Congress lets leaders know how significant funding for vital poverty acts is. Breaking the cycle of poverty starts at the education level. Providing this betterment opportunity for women allows people to help them so they can help themselves. Reaching out to local and national media channels is another useful action. Sending messages to news sources is a great way to have one’s voice heard. The increase in coverage of women in poverty will raise greater awareness and support for this humanitarian matter, and in turn, bring more legislators attention to it as well.

Raising a voice to support women in poverty costs little time and effort. Meanwhile, it can change the lives of so many women. Straightforward actions support women in poverty. Voicing opinions on this issue helps legislators focus on this matter. Financially supporting those who make a difference every day in marginalized communities is crucial.

Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr

women's health, organizations
In a continent whose culture puts a lot of pressure on a woman’s ability to reproduce, there is little knowledge shared within the African community on women’s reproductive health. Women make up half of Africa’s total population, with 56.4 percent of the female population between the ages of 15 and 64.

Gender Inequalities in Africa

In Africa, there is taboo surrounding a woman’s menstruation that has caused inequality among the sexes as well as serious health issues. In African culture, girls are raised with the notion that menstruation is something to be ashamed of and must keep these issues to themselves if they are even told what to expect.

Education about reproduction is scarce and most women lack the proper feminine hygiene supplies to facilitate their body’s needs. The cost of feminine sanitary items is exorbitantly high leading many to use other inefficient and dangerous methods to catch the flow of blood.

Many African girls face ridicule by the opposite sex while others suffer a strain on their self-esteem because of their body’s natural biology. In some parts of Africa, women are separated from the rest of the community and forbidden to participate in everyday activities until their monthly periods have ceased.

The gap in gender inequality is widened further when girls have to miss several days of school a month due to insufficient feminine resources.

With the acknowledgment that something must be done to repair the stigma surrounding menstrual periods in third world countries, especially the ones that are located in Africa, many organizations are leading the charge for change.

While providing cost-effective alternatives to sanitary napkins, most of these organizations are uplifting the female population with one of the most invaluable resources of all— education. Some of these women’s health organizations in Africa are described below.

5 Women’s Health Organizations in Africa

  1. One of the 5 women’s health organizations making an impact in Africa is AFRIpads, organization that categorizes itself as a social enterprise that produces and supplies cost-effective reusable sanitary pads. This Africa-based organization is aiming to reduce environmental stressors by cutting down on the amount of waste that one-use sanitation pads cause. As a company that employs mostly females, AFRIpads is destroying the social stigma surrounding menstruation by encouraging women in Africa to own up to their femininity one pad at a time.
  2. Ruby Cup is another organization that is offering a safe alternative to using rags as a sanitation device. This organization is providing reusable menstrual cups to girls in need through their “Buy 1, Give 1” initiative. In addition to securing an alternative means of female sanitation, the organization is also sending members out to educate girls about their female and reproductive health.
  3. Days for Girls is a powerful nonprofit organization that is improving far more than girl’s health. This organization’s aim is to change the attitudes about beauty and confidence. A coalition of volunteers sews brightly colored bags filled with supplies making their intended recipients feel extra special when they receive them. Days for Girls’ outreach efforts have improved the lives of more than a million girls and they are giving opportunities to those who had none before.
  4. ZanaAfrica is taking a direct approach to ending the inequality within girls education in Africa. Some girls in Africa miss school or they are forced to drop out because they are forced to miss some classes because of their periods, but ZanaAfrica is distributing sanitation materials along with a healthy dose of innovative educational resources. ZanaAfrica’s efforts have been met with the creation of days for awareness as well as working closely with government officials on female life-changing sanitation policies.
  5. Femme International is an organization that is promoting female empowerment among adolescent girls in Africa. They are not only contributing sustainable and long-term methods of menstrual protection but are also putting a heavy emphasis on the hygienic aspect of woman’s health. Included in their period kits is a bar of soap, a container for the soap, a towel and a bowl to boil water to sanitize the reusable menstrual cup included with the kit.

These five woman’s health organization in Africa described above have prevented girls from becoming sex workers in order to pay for their monthly sanitation needs. This has cut down the number of women contracting HIV/AIDS. They have also managed to save many girls from diseases related to improper sanitation and encouraged young girls to stay in school with their efforts.

In supplying girls in Africa with sanitation materials and information about their reproductive health, many of these organizations have raised awareness of the issue prompting change. Girls in third world countries in Africa affected by these organizations have undergone a transformation that has changed their whole outlook on life. Most important of all, these organizations have opened up a line of communication when it comes to talking about female reproductive health and periods.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Education in UgandaEducation, especially for girls, is one of the best ways to increase a developing country’s welfare. A nation’s GDP can rise by three percent when the number of girls in school increases by 10 percent. On an individual level, every year a girl stays in school, her potential income increases by about 15 to 25 percent. These numbers show that education in Uganda is, just like everywhere else, an ever-important issue.

In Uganda, girls have a low track record of completing their education. Studies show that only 22 percent of Ugandan girls are enrolled in secondary school, contrasting the 91 percent enrolled in in primary school.

Analysts have often pointed out that early marriages and social stigmas keep girls from receiving a complete education in Uganda. But there’s a simpler, more intimate reason behind those causes: menstruation.

This topic remains uncomfortable and awkward in developed countries, but Ugandan girls face this problem on an entirely different level. Many developed countries, including Uganda, have myths and stigmas surrounding periods that shame girls when they menstruate. As a result, most girls have no understanding of what is happening to their bodies or how to take care of themselves.

Adding to this difficulty is the lack of availability of feminine hygiene products. Drugstores that carry disposable pads, tampons and other products can be more than 40 minutes away. Even then, these products are usually imported and are too expensive for most Ugandan women to afford.

Desperate to stop the monthly flow, Ugandan women often resort to using pieces of cloth, shreds of foam mattresses, toilet paper, newspapers, banana plant fibers and even leaves. Not only are these options ineffective and uncomfortable, but are also extremely unhygienic, putting girls at risk for diseases.

About half of Ugandan girls skip three days of school every month because they do not have any feminine hygiene products and do not want to stain their clothes. As the absences stack up, many girls find it too hard to continue their education and eventually drop out. Social stigmas also place pressure on girls to marry once they get their periods and not remain in school.

However, despite the struggle, many girls want to stay in school and complete their education in Uganda, and they’re getting help from several international organizations to do so. Wateraid, a nongovernmental organization that seeks to provide clean water and sanitation efforts to developing countries around the world, started hygiene clubs in Ugandan schools. At these clubs, girls learn about menstruation and how to make their own pads and products.

One of these clubs, located at St. Mary’s School in northeastern Uganda, has taken things a step further. This hygiene club travels to other skills singing, dancing, and even rapping about their periods. This group of girls wants to raise awareness about the stigmas surrounding menstruation and promote education in Uganda.

Despite the work of Wateraid and other groups, many girls in Uganda are still skipping school because they don’t have feminine hygiene products. Wateraid ambitiously plans to supply the necessary sanitation products, from tampons to toilets, for every child and every school in every part of the world by 2030.

On an entrepreneurial level, start-up AFRIpads donates reusable pads to women in Uganda and other areas where women do not have easy access to menstrual products. These organizations hope that soon every girl in Uganda will be able to attend school every day of the school year, whether she has her period or not—and no one will shame her if she does.

Sydney Cooney

Photo: Google

[hr]

Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.

[hr]

Universal Primary Education Policy
The Ugandan government spends roughly $300 million annually on universal primary education. Despite the government’s devotion to free public education, the universal primary education policy is enduring severe growing pains.

One main issue is that despite the government’s large expenditure, parents still pay for half of their students’ fees. According to Nelson Wanambi, an economist at Uganda’s Ministry of Education, parents now pay 46.9 percent for education whereas the government pays a mere 27.6 percent.

The high cost for families causes many children to drop out of school as education becomes burdensome for parents. This economic strain on families contributes to Uganda’s staggering 75.2 percent primary school dropout rate.

After the universal primary education was introduced in 1997, Ugandan schools grew at such a high rate that not enough teachers could be trained to accommodate the increased enrollment rate. Further, many teachers receive insufficient salaries, resulting in strikes and frequent teacher absenteeism.

Fortunately, the government has recently received financial support from the Global Partnership for Education. The most recent contribution was over $100 million to support Uganda’s Education Sector Strategic Plan (EESP). The ESSP originally ran from 2004-2015, and the Global Partnership for Education has made a pledge to continue the program from 2014-2018.

As in many developing nations, gender-related issues contribute to the high drop out rate. On average, Ugandan boys stay in school for two more years than girls — 6.3 compared to 4.5 years respectively. In Uganda, 30 percent of girls drop out of school when they start menstruating because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

Organizations like Afripads, which is headquartered in Uganda, work to increase accessibility to sanitary pads for young girls and provide job opportunities for Ugandan women. Some schools, such as Katwe primary school, are successfully implementing the universal primary education policy. At Katwe, the school provides sanitary pads for their female students.

In theory, the universal primary education program would relieve the burden for many families to pay tuition for their children and increase graduation rate. However, the program has faced many obstacles. With the help of organizations such as Global Partnership for Education and Afripads, Uganda’s future for education is bright once again.

Sabrina Yates

Photo: Flickr