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’ (TAO) 2011 Annual Report is very pleased to welcome the creation of TAO-Uganda, a fully-independent Ugandan charity that will take forward projects using TAO’s well tried and proven approach. TAO-Uganda has a well-qualified Ugandan Board of Trustees and is already delivering our Comic Relief-funded project ‘Establishing commercial sunflower businesses in Pader’.
TAO-Uganda was formally registered on 24 November 2011 and the details of its operations were finalised during early 2012. TAO-Uganda is entirely independent from TAO in the UK, but the Board and staff of TAO are delighted to aid the development of capacity within Uganda to apply our proven approach.
TAO’s Annual Report also announces the formalising of a partnership with Kulika Uganda to deliver our DFID-funded project, ‘Women’s commercial farming: Lira, Apac and Oyam sub-counties’.
The two projects are, between them, expected to support around 15,000 orphans and other vulnerable children in northern Uganda by enabling previously internally-displaced women – mostly widows – to farm commercially.
TAO Chairman, Iain Knapman, said:
“We are very happy with the progress to date on both projects. They are our first projects supporting our beneficiaries by improving their access to commercial markets, as well as applying our proven approach in increasing agricultural productivity. Accessing markets is in many ways a much more challenging task and we are working closely with our delivery partners to develop effective and sustainable ways to connect small farmers with larger markets.”
Dateline 18 October 2011
Trust for Africa’s Orphans (TAO) has this week launched two exciting new projects to help women and children who were internally-displaced due to conflict in northern Uganda. They will follow TAO’s successful approach to enable women caring for orphans to develop productive farms, so they can feed their families healthily and grow surplus for sale. But, crucially, these new TAO projects will go further, allowing the households to generate sustainable incomes by helping them gain access to commercial markets.
“These projects are about much more than teaching farming skills to the women involved – who are mostly widows and are looking after hundreds of orphans,” says London-based TAO Coordinator Joy Mugisha. “They will truly empower our beneficiaries by enable the women to earn good money by helping them learn marketing skills and build relationships with socially-responsible commercial buyers.”