A staggering 80% of girls in Uganda drop out of primary education. For 30% of these girls, the key reason is the combination of the stigma around menstruation and the unaffordability of disposable sanitary pads. TAO’s most recent project provides a simple, but highly effective solution: re-useable, washable sanitary pads, combined with awareness raising.
This issue has received a lot of media attention in Uganda, for example this New Vision article shares girls’ stories behind his tragic waste of future opportunities. It tells of girls resorting to using inadequate and unhygienic rags, suffering humiliating bullying and being forced to share latrines with boys – many of whom have no understanding of menstruation. Even at home the taboos mean girls attempt to dry the rags out of sight, with the result that they often wear dangerously damp and bacterially-infested cloth.
Millions of girls miss up to 18 days per term – including exam days. They usually end up dropping out of school. Others try to raise money to buy sanitary pads, including engaging in transactional sex, which puts them at risk of HIV and STI infection. And orphan girls have it particularly hard, often having no one to turn to for information and advice.
Overwhelming reasons to reduce girls’ drop-out rate in Uganda:
- Over 30% of Ugandan girls have their first baby by 18
- HIV infection rates 9x higher in girls than boys of same age
- One of the highest maternal death rates in the world, 25% due to unsafe abortions
- Increasing female literacy by 10% lowers infant mortality rate by 10%
For every 1,000 girls completing one additional year of schooling, 2 maternal deaths and c.45 infant deaths would be prevented.
To address this huge problem, Scott Bader Commonwealth has funded TAO to run a pilot project in Kole District to establish a self-sustaining social enterprise producing re-usable, washable sanitary pads at an affordable price. By making a small profit on the sales it will generate the income it needs to be self-sustaining.
Our project provides the sewing machines, initial materials required and provision of a secure room for production and storage of the pads. In addition, we are constructing latrines for girls. As this Guardian article reports, Ugandan Government statistics show that for every 71 pupils there is only one latrine, meaning that it’s typically shared by boys and girls.
Crucially, female teachers will also provide health education to girls, covering reproductive health and providing a comfortable environment for the girls to discuss menstruation, puberty and relations with boys.
By creating an effective and self-sustaining approach, we hope it will be adopted widely across Uganda by other local authorities and schools, and/or by the national government. Already the President of Uganda has expressed great interest in this project. Moreover, as our 22 years of working in Uganda has demonstrated, communities are likely to be quick to adopt effective models and we hope that the enterprise will be adopted to help women of all ages.
This is a pilot project, intended to explore approaches and develop ways to change attitudes, as well as establish a self-sustaining social-enterprise. This means that the project is changing as it goes along. See Current projects for further details.
Trust for Africa’s Orphans’ major 3-year project in the impoverished north of Uganda has now been concluded, having brought great benefits to the community.
A full summary and photos of this project can now be seen in TAO Annual Report 2014.
The ‘Improving land rights, livelihoods and climate change resistance’ project, funded by Comic Relief, built on the tremendous success of our previous major agri-business project, see Lira, Apac & Oyam Project 2011-13 – Summary & Evaluation. Like the Lira project it organised the small farmers, mostly women, into farmer associations, training them in the agricultural and business skills needed to be able to sell in bulk at commercial prices to large buyers. The result was a great increase in the income for the 600 participating households, which supported 2,700+ orphans and other vulnerable children.
The project also went further than the Lira one. It included significant work to improve understanding and acceptance of land rights. This northern Uganda community continues to be very affected by the decades of conflict, and women – especially widows – and children are particularly vulnerable to being denied access to their rightful land. The project resolved about 30 land cases and raised awareness of rights much more widely, also resulting in a positive impact on gender relations.
War and climate change have also affected the land and environment, and the demand for fuel exacerbates the pressures on the trees and land. The third major component of this project was, therefore, to improve understanding of climate change factors and to build local resistance, including through goat husbandry, bee-keeping, tree-planting and use of soil enrichment and natural pesticides. One of the immediate impacts of this training combined with better incomes was a 50% reduction in the number of trees cut down to make charcoal to sell for additional income.
The ways in which the community has adapted to climate change is illustrated in this info-graphic produced by our delighted partner organisation, TAO-Uganda. Further information can now be seen in TAO Annual Report 2014.
“Hugely innovative” and a “great success” were the strong accolades given in the independent evaluations of our project to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Northern Uganda through market-led development.
Funded by the Department for International Development (DfID), this project in the districts of Lira, Apac and Oyam was our first to enable smallholder farmers to sell their produce at commercial prices.
Our innovative approach was designed by working closely with the communities to understand their needs. It supported farmers to work together in groups and subsequently register as Farmers’ Cooperatives. Farmers were trained in group dynamics and leadership skills, financial management, and marketing and negotiation. Representatives visited the commercial buyers to gain an understanding of how they operate, their quality standards and logistical issues. Stores were built to enable produce to be kept securely and sold in bulk at fair market prices. Farmers learnt to make planting decisions based on market information and appreciation of issues such as crop rotation.
The project generated a very tangible profit to the farmers that in just the first two years represents an excellent return on investment for our donor – 424% + increased food consumption for the families. There were also multiplier effects on the wider community and in terms of the participants’ ability to invest further in their farms.
We were also delighted that the project evaluations confirmed a significant improvement in gender relations, reduced gender based violence and an increase in women’s involvement in leadership and decision making.
This particular project built on our previous work in these three districts that had already enabled women and children to achieve fair access to land, and had trained them in productive agricultural techniques.
We are now applying the market-access lessons learnt to our current major project in the adjacent Pader District, which combines all the elements of both projects in Lira, Apac and Oyam, together with support to help farmers to resist the impacts of climate change.
We are currently conducting a major land advocacy project in nearby districts and are seeking donors to fund the application of this successful approach in these districts as well.
Our detailed Lira, Apac & Oyam Project 2011-13 – Summary & Evaluation and our Current Projects page provide further information about our exciting new approach.