No, this post is not about someone wanting to get married!
This post is about what Walter and Milly (EI Uganda staff ) have been working on the past spring, in our 6 pilot schools, where we want to try out different sustainable solutions to empower parents to keep their girls from dropping out of school due to menstruation.
At a recent parents' meeting to work on sustainability of getting pads for girls
We are currently in our 8th year since EI alumnus, Tom, restarted the pads ministry in Pader. Previous to Tom’s time, the girls were taught how to sew their own sanitary pads. However, with the very short times given to the team by school administration, combined with the fact that sewing is not everybody’s forte in life (including the author of this post!), what we found was that many, or even most, of the pads made by the girls were not fit to actually be used. And so Tom, with his engineering mind, worked out a manufacturing process which has been used for the last 6 years to produce and distribute as many pads to as many primary-level, menstruating girls as possible, at the lowest possible cost.
Sustainability, however, has for a long time been our primary concern with the pads ministry. Emmanuel International will not be in Pader forever, so how can we ensure that girls are still accessing what they need during their menstruation, even without our assistance? Previous attempts at convincing school administrations and parent-teacher associations to purchase pads never gained any traction. What are we supposed
This year, we’ve paused distributions in order to work on a solution to this problem. And we’re doing it together with the parents. Walter and Milly are guiding groups of parents to think about what we can do to assist them to be able to provide pads for their girls in future. Solutions may include trying again to train the girls to sew (this time with more follow-up and focused teaching time), training groups of mothers to sew the pads, training parents who are already trained tailors to mass produce them and showing them where to get higher quality materials, and continuing to produce them ourselves with our own local tailor and making them available for sale at schools, whereby the money collected in the first year is saved to buy what is needed for the next year. Interestingly, our office just received a visit yesterday from a Pader man who opened a skills training centre, and one of the things they do is make high quality sanitary pads at a very affordable rate. Helping them to market their products may be yet another approach.
Which is the best solution? We don’t actually know! So this year is going to look quite different for the pads ministry – with a smaller number of schools, using different approaches in different schools, and then comparing after a few months to see what has worked and what has not.
Our goal remains the same – working together to keep more girls in school and build a brighter future for Uganda!
Marianne Botting – EI Uganda
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