19. Feb. 2024
Through local leadership, innovation, and commitment to unlocking female potential, ECO-PADS helps to empower a new generation of young females by providing access to menstrual hygiene materials, offering reproductive health education, and strengthening the local support networks.

4-5 days of school are missed by girls monthly due to the lack of affordable menstrual materials in Uganda. It is important to enable girls to enjoy freedom during their menstruation, it will also increase school attendance and educational attainment.

With a Community Engangement Grant from the Grundfos Foundation, the Ugandan startup ECO-PADS has trained 5150 female learners in in 8 schools, including two secondary schools in menstrual hygiene and reproductive health and taught 558 girls to make their own reusable sanitary pads.

"I received reusable sanitary pads last year at the beginning of the term but I had not started my periods. I attended the trainings by madam Lucy and her team and we were taught how to use, care for the pads like not sharing, washing it clean and making sure it is very dry before using. She also taught us the period calender, when my period started I was in the field playing and I felt something then I remembered the information, so I quickly run home, bathed, put on my reusable sanitary pad. It has really helped me not to worry, I go to class freely and when I get pain I run around. "
Rose, 13

Price is the most important concern for girls and women who need pads monthly. Due to inability to afford pads in the market, some use rags or old pieces of cloth which only embarrasses them while other girls get money from older men (local transport motor bicycles) and they must pay ‘in kind’ exposing them to risks of early pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and ultimately dropping out of school. Menstruation comes along with, soiling, irritation, emotions and cramping and yet the girls do not have information on how to manage this.

“My biggest challenge was buying sanitary pads monthly for my daughter which money I do not have. I am full of joy for the support you have given to my daughter who sat primary seven last year in Buteba Baptist primary school. She passed her exams and is now in secondary school and she is still using the pads she got from you,” says a mother of one of the girls.

Teachers being frontline workers need to be equipped with information on sexual and reproductive healt as they interact with learners on a daily basis. Boy mentorship is also needed to encourage girls to stay in school. Parental involvement in trainings, education is vital for sustainability, especially fathers, uncles and guardians since they are the breadwinners and main decision makers in the households.

Leraners show off their hand made reusable sanitary pads.

The ripple effect of the training has exceeded expectations, as each trained girl has not only acquired the skills but also become and agent of change in her community. Photo: ECO-PADS Uganda.

Improved school performance

The project distributed reusable sanitary pads to 5150 girls in 8 schools including two secondary schools. Primary seven girls who were going to do their primary leaving examination cnfirmed that the sanitary pad gave some of them confidence and ability to do the exams. In the 5 schools where primary leaving examination was done, 70% of the girls passed their exams and they arributed part of the success to availability of sanitary pads that enabled them attend class and not be absent.

”I received a packet of four pads last year when I was in my primary seven. I was able to attend class daily and also participate which helped me pass my exams and now I am in secondary and still using the same reusable sanitary pads I got. Thank you very much Grundfos foundation and Eco-Pads for supporting my journey of being in school to achieve my dream of becoming a teacher,” says Anyokot, one of the project beneficiaries.

"The girls are attending class daily, the training Eco-Pads did has helped the girls educate their friends and sisters, and it is a very noble cause. For sure this project needs to be embraccd by government so that many schools can benefit because it is sustainable. "
Headmisstress, Kayoro Primary School

Each of the girls received a pack of Eco-Pads that can lasts up to 12 months accompanied by comprehensive menstrual hygiene management education and sexual reproductive health information. This empowerment has equiped these girls with the knowledge and confidence to make informed choices about their bodies.

Ugandan school girls make their own reusable sanitary pads from Grundfos Foundation | PDJF on Vimeo.

Ripple effect

In addition, 558 girls were trained on how to locally make these reusable sanitary pads in five schools and results of what they have been able to do after the training is amazing and heart warming. The ripple effect of the training has exceeded expectations, as each trained girl has not only acquired the skills but also become and agent of change in her community.

“The fact that each girl has now trained additional 5 girls or so demonstrates the project’s multiplier effect. Spreading knowledge and empowerment beyond the initial scope. This not only enhances the reach of the initiative but also fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility,” says Lucy Mary Athieno, ECO-PADS Uganda.

 Sanitary pad workshop. Photo: ECO-PADS Uganda

Sanitary pad workshop. Photo: ECO-PADS Uganda

The positive outcome go beyond a mere acquisition of skill, the trained girls turned their knowledge into practical solutions by selling the pads they have made. This is not only addressing menstrual hygiene needs but also contributes to their economic well-being which is a success factor for the project and self sufficiency among the leaners.