Men working at sewing machines may seem like an unconventional picture in some parts of the world — even more so when you realize they are sewing reusable feminine hygiene products! But for several men in Mulatsi, Uganda, this is a regular practice that is strengthening their community, generating income and empowering their daughters.
Period poverty refers to the lack of access to hygiene products for girls living in poverty — something that was an immense struggle for women and girls in Mulatsi.
Sanitary pads cost approximately $1 for a package of seven, a burdensome price for families living in extreme poverty. As a result, women were forced to improvise. “One woman told me she uses newspapers; another, rugs; another, cloth from old blankets; and still another said they cut off part of an old mattress,” says Jacky, the Director of the Compassion-assisted child development center at Mulatsi Church of Uganda.
A Far-reaching Problem
Period poverty was the biggest problem raised by women during a community meeting organized by the church.
The men in the community were largely ignorant to the need and did not see it as their responsibility to provide pads for their wives or daughters. Milton, one of the fathers in the community, confesses that he didn’t expect to have such conversations with his daughter.
“I thought it was not proper for a girl to talk to me about sanitary pads,” says Milton.
He would tell his daughters to have such conversations with their mother. Like most of the men in the community, Milton did not give his wife money to buy pads — the family could not afford it.
Teen Pregnancy and Period Poverty
Jacky learned that period poverty was causing other significant problems like teenage pregnancy and school dropouts.
“Three of my daughters got pregnant,” says Aida, the mother of a Compassion child.
Aida had discovered, to her dismay, that her daughters were trading sex for pads. This practice was not uncommon for girls in the community.
“My fourth daughter grew up knowing God and would open up to me,” she says. “When she began her periods, she told me, and I got her an old cotton cloth and folded it for her. I had several she would wash and keep.”