Helping Girls Stay in School All Month Long

International Women's Day 2017 Stories

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Scholars share their best stories of bold change for young women and girls across Africa. Sandra Nabulega, a Scholar pursuing her undergraduate studies in Statistics at Makerere University, explains how one Ugandan company is working to end the stigma around menstruation.

Talk about menstruation at school, and conversations fall silent. Eighty five percent of girls in Uganda miss class during the school term because they lack sanitary pads during their periods and can’t stand the shame from bullying peers. These school absences are usually hard for the girls to make up lost class time, with therefore most of them end up dropping out of school.

Because menstrual products are too expensive for many families who live on $1 or less, girls resort to using ripped-up scraps of old cloth from bed sheets, washcloths or t-shirts, pieces of foam mattress, toilet paper, leaves and banana fibers which are all unhygienic, ineffective and uncomfortable.

The lack of sanitary pads and stigmatization in regards to menstruating women and girls have seen many organizations rise to stand by them and serve them during their periods. Among these many organizations, Afripads Uganda caught my attention with its wonderful work and achievements. Afripads is an inexpensive reusable sanitary pad manufactured in Uganda with high performance textile to provide effective protection for 12 or more menstrual cycles. Afripads Uganda works with other organizations like Thinx, an American company that donates seven sanitary pads for every pair of Thinx underwear sold. This partnership affords women and girls who are having their periods the ability to go to school and work, offering them a more sanitary menstruation time in the process.

Through the years, Afripads Uganda has provided free pads and menstrual hygiene education to 6,000 to 7,000 disadvantaged school girls, helping to keep them in school. Currently Afripads Uganda has reached more than 500,000 village school girls providing with hygiene education.

It has changed the conversation around menstrual hygiene, breaking the stigma of menstruation and allowing more Ugandan women and girls live more hygienic, comfortable and productive lives.