As regular readers will be aware, over the past decade Lunapads has been developing the Pads4Girls program to bring reusable feminine hygiene supply kits to thousands of girls and women in need in over 15 countries. Pads4Girls seeks to address an often-overlooked problem that hundreds of millions of girls and women in developing nations face: missing school or work for several days every month because they lack adequate menstrual hygiene supplies. You can learn more about the issue and its impact on our site here, and in the Pads4Girls section of our blog.
Trying to determine how to make a bigger impact with Pads4Girls from a distance only goes so far, and we feel called to learn more and go deeper. In January 2012 Suzanne and I will be traveling to Uganda with Shanti Uganda, a Vancouver-based charity that improves infant and maternal health, provides safe women-centered care and supports the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
We are appealing to the Lunapads community to raise funds to enroll 300 teenage girls in Shanti Uganda’s At Risk Girls Program, a health and wellness program focused on inspiring futures for girls and teen mothers in Kasana Town Uganda. As part of the workshop, each girl will receive AFRIpads (Ugandan-made cloth pads based on Lunapads, see below for more information about them) and a health education manual.
In addition to supporting Shanti Uganda, we will be participating in Shanti Uganda’s 2012 Yoga & Seva Journey and visiting their Birth House. During our time in the community, we have been asked to share our business knowledge with the Shanti Uganda Women’s Income Generating Group, comprised of local women artisans, and will also be participating in a Teen Girls Workshop run by Shanti Uganda’s team of dedicated Ugandan midwives.
Finally, as part of our leadership development and desire to make a larger, more lasting impact with Pads4Girls, we will be studying some thought-leading social enterprises who are working in Uganda. Spending time with these groups will allow us to better understand the opportunity to support cloth pad manufacturing and sales distribution models, allowing the Pads4Girls vision to go beyond simply providing pads.
Want to help? For $15, you can provide a Ugandan girl with life changing education and products that will enhance her future. Above all, we ask that you spread the word about our doings in your social networks: this will attract further interest and help for future projects. Thank you for your support!
More information about our partners:
The Shanti Uganda Society began with a vision to bring the healing power of yoga and conscious birth to communities experiencing trauma in Uganda. We imagine a world where birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS are supported, empowered and able to develop to their full potential and our goal is to reduce maternal and infant mortality throughout Uganda. The Shanti Uganda Birth House is a solar powered maternity centre on one acre of land in the Luweero District of Uganda. The Birth House provides mother-centered care throughout pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period and is staffed by our team of Ugandan Midwives, Traditional Birth Attendant and Lab Technician. From the Birth House, Shanti Uganda provides Prenatal Education Classes and Infant Care, a Community Garden Program, a Teen Girls Program and a Women’s Income Generating Group – a collective of HIV positive women who make beautiful bags and jewelry.
When AFRIpads’ founders Paul Grindvals and Sophia Klumpp traveled to Uganda in 2008, two significant things happened. First, they became aware of the numerous hardships and challenges that girls cope with while trying to manage their monthly menstruation, and how this negatively impacts girls’ attendance and their academic performance.
Second, the founders learned about the existence of reusable, cloth menstrual pads manufactured by Lunapads. They approached Lunapads founders Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens, who readily agreed to supply patterns and business mentorship. In Uganda, where the population is nearly 80% rural and poverty is widespread, reusable sanitary pads are truly a product innovation that is simultaneously an empowering and practical solution to an everyday challenge. The founders connected the dots and the idea of AFRIpads was born.
In early 2009 they started AFRIpads as a pilot project to determine the feasibility of locally manufacturing a low-cost, cloth sanitary pad, and subsequently, what the demand for such a product would be. The entrepreneurs were met with great success on both accounts. Ugandan schoolgirls quickly embraced the AFRIpads’ design, immediately recognizing the benefits of a washable pad over the makeshift alternatives they previously relied on, and it soon became evident that it was time for AFRIpads to grow.
With the success of the pilot project, AFRIpads was ready to start addressing the acute need for affordable menstrual products on a nation-wide scale. But rather than establishing a charity, the founders decided to take a new approach to addressing development problems, and in late 2009 AFRIpads Ltd. was incorporated as a social business. By blending the power of business with the social objectives of charity, AFRIpads is utilizing the power of the market to provide the best and most sustainable menstrual product solution.