This last weekend I went to a small village near Kyotera to my friends' Courtney and Ashley's sites. We had a fun and relaxing weekend making pita bread, guacamole, fried rice and banana pancakes. We also threw a little work in there. Another volunteer, Amber, came and gave the girls at Ashely and Courtney's schools a presentation on Afri-Pads, re-usable sanitary pads for women.
Typically disposable sanitary pads (Always brand) are 30,000 shillings per year. While this may not seem like much ($15 US), to a Ugandan girl or family with more than one female, the cost of disposable sanitary pads is too expensive. They resort to less costly (and sanitary) options: cotton, old clothes, rags, newspaper, leaves, chicken feathers. The use of such materials can cause infection, discomfort, and embarrassment. They can leak, they can smell, they can fall out when walking or playing sports. For these reasons, and others, many girls choose to stay home for an entire week of school when menstruating. This means they can miss out on around 25% of school each year - one week per month! Their grades may suffer, they may not pass their exams granting them access to Secondary school or University and their educational futures are dead.
While disposable sanitary pads can cost 30,000 shillings per year, a pack of Afri-Pads is only 3,000 shillings - far more affordable for rural school girls. A pack comes with a pink liner, which snaps onto the underwear and has ribbons to hold the pads (each pack has 5, both winged and regular) in place. These are washed each day and hung in the house to dry. Afri-Pads says that these will last 12 cycles, or one year, but most girls will probably use these for several years with careful washing.