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The Extraordinary Ugandan Dads Fighting Period Poverty

When Milton and his friends saw period poverty robbing girls of their dignity, they decided to take action.

period poverty in Uganda

Carol from Uganda has never forgotten the day her pad fell out in public at school.

“One day I was walking to get food and my pad fell out. My fellow students laughed. I was so ashamed. I ran home and got another pad. I didn’t go to school for two days. I was scared,’’ she shares.

All over the world, billions of women have periods every single month yet menstruation is still a subject rife with stigma, taboos and misinformation. And getting access to the basics required for a safe period are still out of reach for many women.

This needs to change. Which is why Compassion and the local church are working together to defeat period poverty.

Period poverty in Uganda

In Uganda, period poverty is a significant issue which leads to teenage girls skipping or dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and marital conflict. A pack of seven sanitary towels cost approximately 75p but that’s out of the reach for many families struggling to afford a daily meal.

The local church in Mulatsi, Uganda, held a meeting where the lack of feminine hygiene items was identified as the biggest problem by the local community. Many of the women shared about the difficulties they faced without being able to afford pads.

One woman said, we use newspapers; another, rugs; another, cloth from old blankets; and still another said they cut off part of an old mattress. - Jacky, the Compassion project director at the Mulatsi Child Development Centre

The Mulatsi church came up with a solution – to train the local community to make re-usable sanitary towels. One set of seven towels can be made for $1.50 and will last an entire year. Thanks to generous donations to our Health Interventions, the church received the support it needed to train the community.

Educating men on menstruation to help end period poverty

The Compassion project staff trained beneficiaries and their parents on how to make sanitary towels for themselves. But they didn’t stop there. The teaching was extended to three local schools where they instructed both male and female students as well as the local village leaders and all church members in the parish.

period poverty

Everybody who received training was asked to train others to keep the education rippling across the region. And as a result, caregivers including men found a new source of income. Boys and men can be important sources of support in the fight to end period poverty but in Uganda, men often regarded menstruation as a subject not to be openly discussed.

Milton, father to a Compassion-sponsored girl in Mulatsi, says “I thought it was not proper for a girl to talk to me about sanitary towels. I have a 16-year-old, when she would come to me, I would refer her to her mother.”

But his perspective began to change as a result of learning how to make sanitary napkins.

After the training, I realised that as a father I should learn how to make these sanitary towels. It has also helped me because now I make them and even sell them and get money to do other things. Before I couldn’t provide them, so they would use old mattresses and fold in the cloth, but I discovered that it was unhygienic and [why] the mother often fell sick.

Milton persevered in his new business despite being looked down upon by other men. “In the beginning it was shameful before the men in the community, but to me I found it useful. But I have now educated other men. I think it was from a traditional background because our fathers would defer to the mothers but later I discovered the tradition doesn’t help,” he reflects.

Periods in developing countries

Having the ability to look after your personal hygiene and health during a period shouldn’t be a privilege; it’s a basic human right.

periods in developing countries

Carol is just one of the girls benefiting from Milton, the church's and Compassion's commitment to fighting period poverty. She no longer has to suffer shame and embarrassment. Her story reminds us that together, we can defeat period poverty. 

WORDS : Roz Walsh, Caroline Mwinemwesigwa

PHOTOS : Caroline Mwinemwesigwa

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