28th May is International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), a day to globally promote good menstrual hygiene, for all women and girls. The day aims to break the silence, to raise awareness, and to change negative social norms around having your period.
This year in Malangala, an hour’s drive from Kampala, our partner Action 4 Health Uganda (A4HU) organised various activities to celebrate the day. Malangala is also the site where our second MakaPads production hub is going to be built shortly and it was exciting to be at the location for the occasion! Even more so, it was exciting to be together with school children, teachers, parents and members of the local government as the only way to address and reduce period shame is to get everyone involved.
Menstrual Hygiene Day at Malangala
There were speeches and songs but to me, the most impressive part was the play staged by the local Youth Empowerment Centre (YEC), presenting MakaPads to the public.
The play was about a girl who gets her period in class and goes home to ask her mother for a rag of clothing. Unfortunately, rags or banana leaves are still very common in the rural areas for girls and women to use as there are no affordable sanitary pads available. To her request, her mother replies: “Let’s ask your dad for some money so we can buy MakaPads! These pads are cheap.” However, the father prefers to spend the money on beer – also very common behaviour. The parents have a talk at school where they are informed on the benefits of sanitary pads and the dad finally agrees to buy a package of MakaPads for his daughter.
The YEC play
Albeit simple, it was impressive how this playful skit touched upon various aspects of period poverty. First of all, it has to be mentioned that they presented multiple affordable, disposable and reusable, sanitary products. Being affordable to girls and women in rural Uganda is at the heart of what MakaPads does, so we fit right in.
Secondly, it presented the importance of schools in raising awareness: teachers play a vital role in providing Menstrual Hygiene information, to both students and parents. They convey more factual hygiene knowledge, sometimes even provide the girls with sanitary towels and thereby ultimately help them to graduate. Last but not least, they open up the conversation on the shame and taboo related to menstruation. In the end, all girls and women in rural Uganda, in the whole of Uganda, in fact, all girls and women in the world, deserve a sanitary product that makes them feel human. In Malangala, on the 28th of May, on MH day, they have made a start to make that a reality.
The MakaPads team at Malangala