Lives of up to 50,000 Ugandan girls and women were set to witness a significant improvement as the Ugandan Red Cross Society (URCS) joined hands with a charitable foundation from the UK for the purpose of setting up a manufacturing plant for reusable sanitary pads.
The upcoming plant in Namakwa in Mukono district of the east African country will also create employment opportunities for more than 200 vulnerable girls and women who will be given training to manufacture and market the pads, thanks to a significant grant funding from the Randal Charitable Foundation founded by Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, a philanthropic business leader and entrepreneur.
The plant, once fully operational, will manufacture 200,000 reusable pads a year, which is equivalent to 50,000 four-pad packs.
Around 20 percent of the pads will be provided to 10,000 vulnerable schoolgirls for free. The other 80 percent will be made available for 40,000 girls and women in the wider community at a subsidised price, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of the manufacturing facility.
Dr Kotecha, also the chair of trustees of the Randal Charitable Foundation, said, “Our mission is to directly save and significantly improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society in the UK and globally.
“This project is so beneficial to the community because without access to high quality sanitary pads and toilets, or washrooms for changing, many girls and women are not able to go far from their homes.
“The consequence of this is that they often cannot attend school, and in many cases become trapped in their homes and are unable to earn a living to support their families.”
Lauding his organisation’s partnership with the Ugandan Red Cross Society, he said, “The manufacturing facility will have the dual benefits of ensuring girls are able to stay in school to gain a good education, and in many cases a future free of extreme poverty. It will also deliver sustainable skilled employment to the women and girls involved in the production and sale of the pads.”
The grant funding will support the setting up of the facility to produce reusable sanitary pads and the training and up-skilling of selected girls and women to make them.
It will then fund capacity-building to involve more girls and women in specific skills, such as record keeping and marketing, as well as support supervision and monitoring.
After acquiring the required production skills, each female trainee is targeted to produce 50 reusable pads per day, which equates to 1,000 per year.
Once the first group of 20 trainees have mastered the skills to produce the reusable pads, they will recruit another group of 20 to expand their labour force.
The project is part of a collaboration between URCS and the country’s ministry of education and sports and partners, which in 2019 launched a countrywide initiative named Keep a Girl in School.
The main aim of the project is to improve menstrual health management among primary and secondary school-going adolescents in vulnerable communities.
During the implementation of the project, URCS is partnering with She for She — an indigenous organisation whose goal is to ensure that every menstruator can attend school by improving access to pads and providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights education.
She for She has experience in training community groups to sew pads and partnering with established local organisations to provide education and dialogue on menstruation and related menstrual hygiene management.
While the first set of materials will be imported, the URCS will advocate for in-country factories to start producing the materials locally.
Robert Kwesiga, the society’s secretary general, said, “I would like to thank the Randal Charitable Foundation for their significant support for the humanitarian cause to keep more girls in school through manufacturing, good sanitation, and provision of pads.
“As a result of a lack of access to hygienic sanitary wear, girls and women in the community often resort to using inappropriate materials such as rugs torn from their old clothes, papers, pieces of old mattress foam and leaves. And in some cases, in rural communities, they become housebound, and forced to sit over a hole dug in the middle of their mud floors until the menstrual flow ends.
“School going girls who get blood on their clothes are also often teased by teachers, boys, or other girls, and this has been reported as a significant cause of school dropouts for girls. “
‘Keep Girl in School’ is also part of the URCS Health and Social Service Agenda under Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Interventions – which plays a crucial role around key issues such as health, education, protection and security of women and adolescent girls, both in emergency and in the development context.
To find out more about the Randal Charitable Foundation, visit www.randalfoundation.org.uk
To know more about the Ugandan Red Cross Society, visit www.redcrossug.org and https://youtu.be/CIK3XRMV3j8