Tackling taboos and empowering women through menstrual hygiene management


Friday, May 26, 2017

Girls all over the world routinely suffer because of misinformation around menstrual health or simply because they have ineffective, uncomfortable, or non-existent sanitary products.

A recent UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. In December 2016, Roshani Tiruwa, a Nepalese teenager, died of suffocation after she was locked in a shed because she was on her period.

As menstrual health is seen as a taboo in many societies, NGOs are only recently focusing discussions on it recently and creating innovative solutions to empower women and break the stigmas.

Only about30% of Ugandan woman and girls use disposable sanitary products, which are expensive and hard to come by. Instead, the majority use home-made substitutes such as pieces of material or foam mattress, toilet paper, or even newspaper - many of which are ineffective and unhygienic. To address this issue, reusable sanitary towels are on the rise.

AFRIpads was set up after founder Sophia Grinvalds struggled to find sanitary products while volunteering in rural Uganda. It is now one of Africa's largest manufacturers of reusable sanitary pads. 70,000 pads are produced each month in South Uganda, which is mostly staffed by women. These are then sold to NGOs who distribute the pads where needed.

AFRIpads has now rebranded to break into the consumer market. “So Sure” was launched in July 2015, a more “consumer-facing” brand for the same product. Over 50,000 packs were sold in the first half of 2016, and processes are now underway to scale up production to reach more women.

By giving women and girls access to safer, cheaper, more effective sanitary products, AFRIpads is breaking down the barriers and stigmas that reduce their participation in society.