EARNING A LIVING THROUGH MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT

I have been berated by my fellow men, some even go ahead and state that I am a woman and I use these pads myself. but I do not care. As long as my wife and children are happy, and I earn an income for my family’s wellbeing, they can say whatever they want
Mustafa
Host community member

Forced from their homes due to conflict, over 1,400,000 women, men, youth and children are rebuilding their lives as refugees in various settlements in Uganda. Life within these settlements is not the easiest and it has its challenges although the situation seems tough, hope still shines through.

A case in point is the group of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ugandan nationals from Kakoni in Kyaka II refugee settlement that came together to produce reusable menstruation sanitary pads, also known as RUMPS. This initiative within Kyaka II refugee settlement was funded by European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and is implemented by Oxfam and partner organisation AWYAD. Communities are encouraged to form a group and they are then trained by partner AWYAD in making the reusable sanitary pads.

“I got to know about making these reusable sanitary pads from a friend. I first had doubts about these pads and their use but now, after using them on my own, those doubts are no longer with me, says Mapendo, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The group, consisting of five men and sixteen women, makes and sells these pads to community members, and this has earned them an extra income which they use for home consumption. One handsewn pad sells for 2500 Uganda shillings while a machine sewn one is 5,000 Uganda shillings. The women also use these sanitary pads for themselves and their families.

“Ever since I learnt how to make these pads, I have not bought normal disposable sanitary pads for my wife, nor children,” says Daudi, a member of the group. Daudi is one of the men that expressed interest in the training to make the reusable pads, and eventually joined the group. “At first, I thought that the training was meant for only women and girls, but I requested to join the group, especially after I was told that the training was free.

Much as making reusable sanitary pads has been beneficial within the community, it also comes with its challenges especially for the men in the group. “I have been berated by my fellow men, some even go ahead and state that I am a woman and I use these pads myself,” said Mustafa, adding, “but I do not care. As long as my wife and children are happy, and I earn an income for my family’s wellbeing, they can say whatever they want.”

 

Community inclusiveness resulting in peaceful coexistence

Through skills-building trainings such as this, all members of the community are brought together, including refugees and nationals and this works towards the promotion of peaceful coexistence within the community. “Before the group was formed, I was hesitant to communicate with the refugees, because I thought they were hostile but later when we formed the group, I realised that I had nothing to fear and I have made good friends within this group,” said Shifah, a host community member.

“We are always there for each other, thanks to this group,” noted Daudi, a member of the group. He added saying, “I know I cannot sleep hungry because I know my fellow group and community members can support me, even though I am a refugee.”

With funding from European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Oxfam with its partner AWYAD have been conducting trainings on the preparation of reusable sanitary pads. To promote menstrual hygiene and improved livelihoods within Kyaka II, women groups, men, boys and girls and have been trained to promote the production and use of the reusable sanitary pads “We are happy to get this opportunity to participate in this training. I hope to train others as well and would like to request for further support with a sewing machine, so that we make better quality sanitary pads, compared to the handsewn pads, ” said a member of the group.