A good number of young women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds do suffer in silence when it comes to matters sanitary towels. The situation gets worse when a girl is on her period during the school seasons, they either not attend to class and if they do they are just not comfortable around people.
The cost of sanitary towels in some African countries remain out of reach for many households. The fact that discussion on matters sanitary towels and youth developing sexuality is still a taboo only serves to make the situation harder. In most homesteads, where the man (father) is the sole bread winner, the girl child would be less inclined to ask for money to buy sanitary towels.
Even if the girl(s) were to ask for money to buy sanitary towels, if the family is struggling to put food on the table, take kids to school, things like buying sanitary towels would seem not a primary concern.
Looking at the East African country Uganda, the World Bank says 34% of the people live under the poverty line earning less than $2 per day. For girls from these disadvantaged homesteads, getting sanitary towels is a big problem. During their period, many are forced to miss out attending school, which affects their overall performance. When they come back to class, they find their peers already ahead in the syllabus.
A Ugandan Startup making Sanitary Towels out of Sugarcane
All hope is not lost, there is a startup company in Uganda that has come up with an innovative and affordable solution to provide alternative sanitary towels made out of sugarcane by-products. What is even more interesting, these sanitary towels are eco-friendly; once they have been used, they are thrown outside where they will degrade naturally without polluting the environment.
A co-founder of the Eco Smart Pads, said, “Many girls cannot afford the sanitary pads on the market. When you go to schools you will be surprised to know that some will miss school because they are going through their menstrual periods, the four days of their menstrual periods, they do not have the right materials to use, they are so embarrassed in public because they will stain their dress and everyone will laugh at them, so they choose to stay at home.”
Eco Smart Pads started using sugarcane by-products since it offers low-cost alternative, which provides absorbent fibre once it has been processed.
The Eco Smart Pads CEO, Noel Aryanyijuka, explains the process of making affordable sanitary towels out of sugarcane as follows:
“You have the sugarcane and the water that is already steamed coming in here, so what you are doing is boiling the sugarcane residue, mainly to remove sugar content and to soften it. After you use the sieve to sieve out the paper all together with the fibre, so the water drains through the sieve, and after this process, you are taking it for drying.”
Eco Smart Pad company is working together with the United Nations to produce these alternative affordable sanitary towels. They have already started getting feedback on the products they have fronted to the market. The startup won $10,000 in a competition for startups addressing sexual reproductive health challenges.
Beineshanyu Mira Kevin, one of the students already using the pads said, “Those eco pads, they will help those girls how? Because some girls are poor and don’t have money to buy other pads.”