By LUCY ORMONDE
Today we want to tell you the story of two women.
These two women live vastly different lives (one lives in Uganda and the other lives in Melbourne) but they also have one very common goal; to provide the women of the world with adequate sanitary hygiene products and reduce the stigma that comes with talking about periods.
The first woman we want to introduce you to is Sophia Klumpp.
Five years ago, Sophia and her partner Paul moved to a small village in Uganda to work on a community development project. The place they were living was poor; there was no running water, no electricity and few means of transportation. It wasn’t long before Sophia started to think about pads and tampons – and what the women of the community were using to manage their monthly periods.
Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Moxie. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.
“About five months into our time in Uganda we realised that many school-age girls could not afford sanitary pads,” Sophia told Mamamia in a recent interview. “The monthly cost was just too expensive for their families, especially if there were several girls living in the household. For those girls who could afford to buy pads, we realised that access in these remote villages was often the barrier. The little dukkas (village shops) often had irregular, if any, pads in stock,” Sophia says.
Sophia says it was then that she had a light-bulb moment. “It begged questions like, ‘if they couldn’t afford pads, what were women and girls using? And how was this impacting their lives?'” she says.
Sophia and Paul started asking questions around the village and soon found out the (quite astonishing) answer.
“We came to realise that many women and girls rely on makeshift substitutes such as old rags, newspapers, and even leaves to manage their menstrual flow. It should come as no surprise that these materials lead to general discomfort, embarrassing leaks, and even infections,” Sophia says.
They also learned that many young girls were missing up to three or four days of school every month – which equates to about 20 per cent of the school year – because they couldn’t afford pads and were worried that their home-made ones might leak or fall out during the day.
“Confronted with this harsh reality, Paul and I decided to take matters into our own hands,” Sophia says. “We had recently learned about cloth washable sanitary pads being used by women in developed countries as an eco-friendly alternative. This sparked the idea that if Ugandan girls embraced the product, it could be a low-cost option, filling the gap between costly disposable pads and the unhygienic alternatives often used. More than that, if there was demand and we could figure out how to make them in Uganda, we could actually create a local industry creating loads of jobs along with it,” she says.
It was with that, that Sophia and Paul’s company AFRIpads was born. Their first pad was made by cutting up bedsheets and fashioning them into what resembled a pad. Five years later, AFRIpads are made in a central factory in Uganda and the company employs 65 local people (95 per cent of whom are women).
The pads are sold to women through various healthcare service providers across Uganda and also to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who provide them to groups like UNICEF, PLAN International and the International Rescue Committee. They’re also distributed to displaced people in large camps and settlements through relief organisations such as Oxfam and Save the Children.