SOWE’s Menstrual Health Projects
Menstruation is a normal part of the lives of 50% of the global population. In spite of this, menstruation causes huge problems for a lot of people around the world. Something that should be as normal as eating, breathing and sleeping causes stigma, isolation, school dropouts and more.
Getting your first period can mean the end of school for a young person living in areas with period poverty. The lack of sanitary products, running water and pain medication often makes it very hard for young girls in these regions to attend school during their period. On an individual level your first period results in regular absence from school, difficulties keeping up with peers and a higher risk of dropping out of school completely. Lack of education will in turn close many opportunities in the labor market and make you more dependent on other people, like your parents, siblings or your future husband. This can also lead to prostitution as the only way for the person to receive an income.
“Period poverty is an expression that include the difficulties and economical vulnerabilities many people in low income regions face because of their period and lack of affordable and accessible sanitary products. “
Reusable pads are becoming more popular in many developing countries around the world. They are considered to be a safe, economical and environment-friendly alternative. The pads are used in the same way as disposable pads, washed after used, dried and then ready to be used again. They can be used for many months up to years.
Our production of reusable pads started at the Yamba Hearts centre in March of 2022. Our reusable pads are sewn by hand with the help of sewing machines and made out of three different materials to be as safe and comfortable as possible. The production crew is made up of previously unemployed women living nearby Yamba Hearts center. For the first months the Yamba Hearts team have been responsible for distribution and sales, and we have given many away with large discounts. We do this to market ourselves and to connect with our future customer base.
As of now, SOWE is covering the costs of education, training and material. But over the coming year we hope to make this project self sustainable.
The aim with the project is therefore both to produce affordable and accessible sanitary pads and also to create more jobs in the area.
The Menstrual cup is another sanitary product that is becoming more popular around the world and especially in high income countries. At this moment menstrual cups haven’t gotten quite so mainstream in the developing world as reusable pads. During the past few years the cups have been discussed with consideration for hygiene, since the cups require boiling water for sterilising and running water for cleaning when emptying the cup. Another major reason for the lack of enthusiasm might be the fact that low quality and dangerous cups in combination with lack of instructions have caused many women in developing countries to become sceptical. Used in the wrong way a menstrual cup (similar to a regular sanitary pad) can be the cause of a septic infection. So the lack of excitement may be understandable.
However, the modern mid/high end menstrual cups may very well be the very best long term sanitary product out there, especially from a financial or environmental perspective. It’s a one time expense and very safe and efficient if done right. The cup is sterilised with boiling water which is highly accessible almost everywhere.
The most cost effective way to fight period poverty is without doubt through menstrual cups, and therefore we have included them in our offering in Mpigi. SOWE donated 30 high quality menstrual cups from Menskopp.se in March 2022. The cups were handed out to women for free together with instructions on how to use them in a safe way. Since then many of the women have returned the cups unused, many with fears over consequences such as increased risk of cancer or infertility. These claims are not at all correct, but we recognise the fear these women experience and will keep focusing on education and information. We also recognise that menstrual cups are more invasive than pads and that the procedure may feel uncomfortable for some.
To summarize: Menstrual cups are safe, cost efficient, effective and environmentally friendly. We are strong believers in this product and will keep marketing menstrual cups as a good solution for women in period poverty.
– The Pad Project (India)
– Plan för the villages (Uganda)
– We got you all (Uganda)
– Menskopp.se (Sweden)
Women’s health workshop
In March we organized and held our first Women’s health workshop for girls and women between 10-25 years. The workshop included five stations that discussed the subjects Menstruation, Sanitary products, HIV/AIDS, Sexual abuse and Contraceptives (family planning). The workshop was very successful and we had a lot of fun with all the girls during the day.