Across the world, young girls struggle to balance their menstruation cycles and their daily lives. Without the proper resources, a week-long period can mean a week out of school – and because in rural areas, sanitary pads can be expensive and nearly impossible to find, 30 percent of Ugandan girls miss class during their periods.
“I was an orphan, and when I was young, it was so hard for me to get sanitary pads,” said Carol,* a client at Alive Medical Services (AMS). “I had to rip my regular clothes and use those as pads.”
Remembering such experiences, Carol joined AMS’ Kisakye Group as soon as it was launched in February of 2015. AMS established the Kisakye Group for two reasons: the first, to help HIV-positive individuals earn a sustainable income; the second, to support girls and women with menstruation management. AMS trained six clients to cut, sew and create reusable sanitary pads – or “super kits” – for donation.
Each super kit contains four cotton pads, two “shields,” two Ziploc bags and a cloth drawstring bag. These super kits help women use their sanitary pads discretely and with dignity.
Since then, the women have continued coming to the clinic nearly every day to sew. The Kisakye Group produces approximately 200 super kits per quarter, each of which can last up to three years. AMS pays women for each super kit they produce, all of which are donated to vulnerable populations and other AMS clients.
“These pads are so important,” Carol said. “You can wash them easily, which prevents disease and infection.”
The sale of these pads has helped women like Carol change their lives: because of her income from the Kisakye Group – and because of her treatment at AMS for the last nine years – Carol’s health has remained under control. Her two children are HIV-negative, happy and healthy. And, Carol reports that her financial stability has helped her look past the stigma and misconceptions regarding HIV.
In addition, Carol’s husband left her last year. Instead of falling apart, the small family picked themselves up, built a new home, and started their lives on a healthier foot, all because of Carol’s savings from the Kisakye Group.
“I love being here,” Carol said. “Kisakye helped me build a one-bedroom house. It helps me budget for my children. Because I know how to make these pads, my daughter won’t have to deal with her period in the same ways I did.”
* we have changed the name of this client to protect her privacy