A Limitless impact story from Uganda
Hello! my name is Esther, and I am a youth volunteer from the Uganda Red Cross. I’m excited to tell you about how our innovation project helped female teenagers in our community while also protecting the environment. Here’s our innovation journey.
In slum areas of Uganda, girls aged 10–19 years from low-income families face a myriad of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) challenges, including: lack of information, products, and services, the use of unhygienic materials such as dirty rags, toilet paper, pieces of mattress, blankets, and cotton to manage their menses, giving them less protection and discomfort, and forcing them to abstain from school for at least 4-7 days a month, amounting to 48–84 days annually.
This directly impacts their academic performance, forcing the majority to drop out of school and expose themselves to early marriages, early pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted infections. Disposable sanitary towels remain costly, inaccessible, and environmentally unsustainable.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed more people into poverty, struggling families failed to afford sanitary products for their daughters, prioritising the purchase of food.
Thanks to the IFRC Solferino Academy support through the Limitless Youth Innovation Academy, we were able to implement our idea of empowering girls and teenage mothers with skills to make reusable sanitary pads.
Our handmade reusable sanitary pad is unique and innovative, it is made from locally available clothing materials, which are readily available in the market. It comprises three different kinds of materials: waterproof materials, soft cotton flannel, and absorbent cotton fleece material, which offers full protection and comfort. They are soft, environmentally friendly, non-itchy, and affordable, and reduce the cost of menstrual pads by 75% to 90% annually.
Besides that, we raise awareness on menstrual health and hygiene, puberty, confidence, and formed Red Cross networks in schools and communities to discuss the reproductive system and how it works. During a training session, one of the school girls asked us how she can prevent periods, and whether boys go to periods too. Young girls often grow up with limited knowledge of menstruation because their mothers and teachers shy away from the discussion of the topic.
We are excited to know that our project is helping out so many girls in schools and communities through the feedback we get from the beneficiaries, school staff and girls, teenage mothers, and community leaders.
We have so far implemented our Project in 8 different schools and 3 communities and managed to train 425 people, and each of them was able to come up with a finished reusable pad. We look forward to putting an end to the period of poverty through implementing our project in different regions of Uganda.
What an amazing story, and what an immediate impact it has on the lives of so many girls in your community. Big kudos to the Esther and her teammates and the Uganda Red Cross for ensuring that girls no longer miss out on school. I am really amazed by the simplicity of the idea, and the hard work that must lay behind it.
Bea Vanhove, Access-to-Education Advisor, ICRC