Caritas Uganda Seeking Partners in “local production of reusable sanitary pads” Initiative

Christine Laura Okello (left) and Aguti Betty Rose (right). Credit: ACI Africa

Caritas Uganda is seeking partners in an initiative that will see “reusable sanitary pads” locally produced, with school-going girls at a refugee center as beneficiaries.

In an interview with ACI Africa, the Humanitarian Emergency Coordinator of Caritas Uganda said the initiative involves training school-going girls at Bidibidi Refugee Settlement, North West of the country, and their teachers to make reusable sanitary towels. 

“We have decided to raise some funds for the local production of reusable sanitary pads,” Laura Christine Okello said during the Tuesday, May 23 interview. 

Ms. Okello said many refugee girls have been forced to drop out of school because of the lack of sanitary towels, and emphasized, “We cannot leave the girls without pads.”

The Caritas Uganda official looked back at previous partnerships, and what has informed the current initiative, saying, “Other partners were helping a lot by giving reusable sanitary pads to the refugees but with the global economic crisis, their priorities are changing.”


Caritas Uganda has envisaged to buy at least 10 machines for making the reusable pads for the three targeted schools, which are located in Bidibidi Settlement, she said, and explained, “This is for sustainability purposes, because if we distribute at the end of the month or two months, there will be no pads.”

The Ugandan Caritas official added that both teachers and students at Hilltop, Hope and Ambia Primary Schools will be trained in making pads for the sake of the project’s continuity. 

“After seven years the students who have been trained might have already left the school. That is why we want the school management to get involved too,” she further said, adding that the pads making initiative will also be an income-generating project for the schools as the sanitary towels can be sold to members of the local community.

Ms. Okello said plans are underway to have the pads making initiative “certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards” so that beyond the training to be offered, the products of the initiative have the “quality assurance” to receive a wider market.

Caritas Uganda has already raised some funds “but it is not a complete component,” she told ACI Africa during the May 23 interview, and added, “We want additional money to clear all those processes of certification and to scale up.”

More in Africa

Also speaking to ACI Africa, Caritas Uganda Policy and Advocacy Specialist, Aguti Betty Rose, said that menstrual hygiene can be “a very big challenge” to refugees and other girls in Africa. 

Ms. Aguti said, “Menstruation is not supposed to be a sickness; it's a natural occurrence; but in African tradition, we do not take it as a normal process.” 

She went on to explain how young girls dropout of school because of the stigma of menstruation, saying, “When a girl is in her periods, she may not even tell anybody and because of the stigma of fearing to be laughed at by other students, in case she stains her dress, she keeps away from school.”

Such a girl, Ms. Aguti said, “may miss school for three days a month.” 

“When you miss those days, it means you have missed schooling and you've missed lessons. So, when the examination comes, you find that there is a gap,” she said, and continued, “(the girl) fails because she was not in school when the topics were being taught so she thinks she is stupid and decides to leave school.” 


Girls are not stupid, the Ugandan Caritas official emphasized, adding that girls “are naturally and socially disadvantaged.”

She added that in some cultures, girls are married off as soon as they experience their first periods as they are seen to be mature. 

“The National Constitution of Uganda provides for 18 as the age for maturity. Girls get their periods before 18.” Ms. Aguti said, and explained that early marriages impact negatively on the nation at the economic and social levels.  

She said, “This girl child is not yet ready for marriage both physically and biologically. So, it brings a lot of health challenges where these girls may not be able to deliver a baby. They have to go for cesarean births; some of them get fistula.”

“There are a number of challenges that come with a simple issue. The community laughs about menstruation, it brings other adverse effects into the community and into the economy,” the Policy and Advocacy Specialist told ACI Africa during the May 23 interview.

(Story continues below)