By MIA KLITSAS, founder of Moxie.
I’m sitting on the plane, homeward bound, from what has been one of the most intense and overwhelming yet exciting and happy experiences of my life.
I’ve been in Uganda for the last week with our ‘Pads for Pads’ initiative, whereby we are providing reusable sanitary pads to schoolgirls who otherwise would not have access to them. Many of these girls will miss up to 20% of their school year (or drop-out altogether) as a result.
During my stay, I visited three schools in some of the most remote villages in Uganda, where many girls cannot even access reusable sanitary pads, let alone afford them. Most of the girls I met use old clothes or dirty rags when they have their periods. This, as you can imagine, is not only incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing because leakage is almost guaranteed, but it’s also unhygienic.
With a chunk of the profits generated through the sales of our Moxie products in Australia over the last few months, we provided 500 girls with a year’s supply of reusable sanitary pads each over the past week – locally made by our partners at AFRIpads – plus menstrual and sexual reproductive education. By the end of the year, that number of reusable sanitary pads will jump from 500 to 6,000. These girls now have the confidence to continue their schooling, uninterrupted by their periods and as they so rightly deserve.
I have met young Ugandan school-girls that want to be doctors, business-women, teachers… each of them want to be SOMETHING.
I did not meet ONE single girl that said she wanted to be ‘nothing’.
I met a girl called Beatrice, who wants to be a nurse. Beatrice is thankful that her father treats her and her brothers equally and pays for her to go to school – many girls aren’t so fortunate as parents will only invest in their sons. Beatrice is 15 years old and is responsible for looking after her younger siblings, sweeping, working on her family’s crops and fetching water every day after school (the walk takes her 40 minutes each way and trust me, a full jerrycan is darn heavy). Whilst softly spoken and incredibly shy, Beatrice was such a delight to chat to – she was witty, intelligent, driven and I could just see the moxie wanting to burst right out of her.
Aside from her family’s poverty, I asked her what her biggest personal challenge was. “Being uncomfortable at school and missing lessons because I have my menstrual period”, she said. “It is hard to learn if I miss lessons. I worry for my exams”. If Beatrice fails or misses her exams, she will have to repeat the year – something her parents cannot afford to pay for, hence it’s likely she will be forced to drop out. To learn that Beatrice and many of her peers, equally as bright, were hindered in realising their dreams because of their period BROKE.MY.HEART. Seriously, that is so messed up. It just further highlighted to me the urgency and importance of what we are doing in bringing reusable sanitary pads to their communities. Such a simple act on our part can really make such a huge difference to a young Ugandan girl like Beatrice.
But this initiative wouldn’t be possible without the women employed by AFRIpads to manufacture the reusable sanitary pads we are donating to the school girls. The staff at AFRIpads are some truly incredible women. Each and every one of them has a back-story, most of them heart-breaking, but all of them inspiring.
One that really touched me was that of a young girl called Ruth. If you’ve been following our travels online, you may know that Ruth is the talented young aspiring designer responsible for our Moxie ‘Pads for Pads’ hand-made bracelets. Like many young Ugandan girls, Ruth was unable to finish school because her family couldn’t afford the fees beyond S.4 (year 10). For two years, Ruth remained at home, with no money available to continue her schooling and unable to find a job.
Despite these setbacks and challenges, Ruth is ultimately a success story. From what was originally intended to only be a temporary role, Ruth is now employed full time in the packaging department at AFRIpads and with the money she makes, she is not only able to fund her design school fees, but also assists other family members with basic household needs when she can. To witness the butterfly effect of our ‘Pads for Pads’ initiative in full force truly blew me away.
There really are so many more stories like Beatrice’s and Ruth’s. The next time I visit Uganda, I hope that the stories I will be told will be about girls attending school 100% of the school year, graduating from high school, getting jobs, buying land and becoming financially independent. I want to hear stories about female doctors, nurses, business-women and teachers. And I hope I don’t ever hear a mention of girls not going to school again just because they have their period; because hopefully, together and in time, we would have reached the point where this issue no longer exists.
Millions of girls living in developing countries, like Uganda, miss up to 20 per cent of the school year because they don’t have access to adequate feminine hygiene products, like reusable sanitary pads, to help them manage their periods whilst they are at school.
Moxie wants to put a stop to these high rates of absenteeism to give girls a better chance to complete their schooling – so they’ve teamed up with AFRIpads (afripads.com), a social organisation based in Uganda, which facilitates the manufacture and distribution of reusable, cloth sanitary pads. The pads are made locally by Ugandan women, allowing them to generate an income to also help send their own kids to school.
Providing reusable sanitary pads is more sustainable in the Ugandan environment where there are no adequate, sanitised means of disposal; hence each girl is provided with a “Deluxe Menstrual Kit” of washable sanitary pads that will last her for one year.
For every packet of Moxie Slenders Liners, Slenders Pads and Sleepovers Pads sold in Australia during this project, Moxie will send the equivalent amount of locally made, re-usable pads to Ugandan school girls.
By buying Moxie reusable sanitary pads, you are personally contributing to young Ugandan women getting the education they deserve.