This very successful project began in 2018 when a lady called Sue Molton from Cheshire decided that she’d like to do something worthwhile to celebrate her 50th birthday! To cut a long story short, she was introduced to UWCM who explained that a few years’ earlier they had been told about washable re-usable sanitary pads and that another supporter had sent them money for 3 x sewing machines but that they didn’t know how to make them and asked if she could help get this project going. Sue also discovered that girls and women in the communities don’t always have knickers or they may only have 1 or 2 pairs which are kept ‘for special occasions’.
Armed with this information, Sue then contacted family and friends and had an amazing response – she raised enough money and materials for about 800 washable, reusable sanitary pads and started a Facebook campaign asking for knickers and was overwhelmed by the support she received – people from all over the country were sending knickers for her to take out to Uganda!
Sue used to design and make children’s clothes and so she was able to put all her skills and experience into designing and making these much needed pads. She went out in 2018 and was able to train a few women’s groups on how to make the pads and these groups then went on to train others.
Later that year, members from Frodsham Community Church donated 3 more machines and the project has continued to grow as demand for machines and knowledge on how to make these pads has grown. Sue went back in 2019 with another friend, Kelly, to train more groups and to take out more supplies of the materials as well hundreds of pairs of knickers for UWCM to distribute in the communities.
What difference is this project making?
This project has not only helped communities to gain knowledge and vocational skills which enables them to earn a living out of making pads and other items for sale to boost household incomes, but has also enabled girls to continue with their education instead of missing time each month. It has greatly increased women’s and girls’ confidence and self-esteem and the demand for machines and training continues to grow as more and more groups hear about it.
Given below are extracts from UWCM’s quarterly reports which highlight the benefits of this project and explains how the groups are able to improvise when they are unable to source the materials locally:
Extract from UWCM’s 3rd quarter report 2018: We would like all the communities who work under our jurisdiction to be able to make these as lack of sanitary pads is one of the reasons for high level of school drop-outs. Many girls miss classes due to lack of sanitary towels so having these re-usable pads at a cheaper cost has helped the girls to stay at school.
Concerning the materials for making these pads, we have managed to purchase the soft cloths from second hand clothes stall except that we have not identified a place which sells fleece, the material that prevents leakages but we will improvise to ensure that this activity continues.
Extract from UWCM’s 3rd quarter report 2019: We monitored the three clusters in Bulambuli district to find out how the re-usable pads project was going. Much as there was not sufficient materials, the women have improvised by using old umbrella materials to prevent the leakage and since this other material is locally available, the making of pads continued!
This project has been embraced positively by all the groups that hear about it and this is because it has helped both women and girls raise their self-esteem. When we distributed knickers to the women’s group leaders, most of them testified that when they took them to the most needy women in the communities, they discovered that some of them did not have not even one pair, and others had only one which they could use only when going to hospitals, church or during special occasions like weddings or burial ceremonies.
For the girls who received pads, they are now happy that they do not miss lessons when they are having their monthly periods. Some of them said that they used to miss classes for three weeks in a term which made them perform poorly in class. But since they got these pads, they no longer get worried.
In January 2020, a group of eight Uganda Concern UK supporters went out to Mbale to visit various projects and between them they had collected hundreds of pairs of knickers to distribute to the women’s groups. One member of their group, Penny Sims, had also been collecting materials and supplies to make the pads and had joined the trip specifically to train more women on how to make them. Penny and the rest of the team were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and excitement for this project which is truly making a huge difference in women’s lives.
It costs approximately 400,000 UGX (approx. £90) to buy a local sewing machine and Uganda Concern UK are committed to raising funds to enable more groups to have a machine and also to ensure that groups know how to repair and maintain the machines.