Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School

by The Kasiisi Project
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Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Sanitary Pads Keep Ugandan Girls in School
Nyabutono Gorret Kasiisi Project Girls' Program
Nyabutono Gorret Kasiisi Project Girls' Program

Uganda has recorded around 20,000 cases of COVID-19 and about 200 deaths. The government acted fast, closing borders and shutting schools in March.

Since then  we have had no face to face contact with our girls. Our programs supporting their reproductive health have been put on hold. and we have been unable to reach a whole cohort of girls who have begun their periods in the last year. Normally we would be ensuring they understood the changes to their bodies and emotions, were given accurate facts about reproductive biology and had lessons in how to make resuable menstrual pads.

We have seen the impact of the epidemic in rising girls' dropout rates in classes that returned to school in November. Increased unemployment and falling incomes have led families to encourage early marriage and jobs in the informal employment sector - helping in shops, roadside fruit and vegetable sellers, agricultural work. Teen pregnancy rates are on the rise forcing girls to lose education.

In an attempt to provide and  support we can we went on the air with phone-in radio programs directed specifically at girls - although we hope their brothers listen too! Topics covered included puberty and teen pregnancy, parent child relationships and childprotection, sexulally transmitted diseases, gender based violence, and posiitve self esteeem, nurtition and body image.

We hear that schools are due to go back in January. It won't be soon enough for many of our girls, we can't wait.

Keeping safe during the epidemic
Keeping safe during the epidemic

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related social-distancing measures have left Ugandan primary and secondary schools closed through at least September. This regrettably forced us to discontinue our school-based sexual and reproductive health education and outreach activities. But this hasn't stopped or even slowed our work!

Turn Up the Radio

To reach not only our students, but their families and communities as well, The Kasiisi Project staff have taken our messages to the Ugandan radio airwaves. We kicked off our health-related radio programs earlier this summer, and we'll continue until schools reopen. Our health educators Patrick and Shammy, along with the district health educator Catherine, have or will address topics related to personal hygiene, menstruation, COVID-19, puberty and teenage pregnancy.

So far, all of our radio programs have been well received, with a large number of enthusiastic and appreciative listeners calling in!

The New Senga

Our health team is putting the final touches on a Parent's Sexual and Reproductive Health Handbook. In Ugandan culture, discussions around sexuality occur only between a girl and her father's sister, a role known as a Senga. With disruptions in family structure brought about by the country's high fertility, this functional relationship has diminished, if not disappeared. Our hope is to start training parents to act as Sengas for their children, both girls and boys. Without the structure of school, children face increased risks, including teenage pregnancy, so the timing of this effort is critically important. To the best of our knowledge, this handbook will be the first of its kind produced for and distributed in rural western Uganda.

We're also working on online materials and downloadable, offline activities around sexual and reproductive health. With the efforts described above and these new tools, we hope to persist our messages and strengthen families and communities -- in spite of this awful pandemic.

We are humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support over the past month, particularly with the knowledge that the pandemic changed many people’s financial circumstances. Now more than ever, we remain committed to protecting Kibale National Park and enhancing surrounding communities, as we have for the past 22 years.

Thank you and stay safe, strong and healthy.

Sample page from the Parent's SRH Handbook
Sample page from the Parent's SRH Handbook
Our health coordinator Patrick Tusiime & students
Our health coordinator Patrick Tusiime & students
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Patrick Tusiime, our health coordinator
Patrick Tusiime, our health coordinator

We need to talk about periods. And not the much-loved punctuation, but the big red elephant in the room. 

And while hardly dinner-table conversation, periods have a dramatic and yet under-discussed impact on health, education, and conservation in the developing world.

For starters, sanitary pads are expensive, and in rural communities like many areas of Uganda, they’re hard to come by. And without easy access to private toilets, washrooms, and sanitation facilities to dispose of pads, periods can be difficult to manage at school. As a result, girls find it difficult to go to school once they reach puberty. In rural Uganda, girls miss up to 8 days of school each month. When a girl misses school because of her period, it puts her behind her male classmates by upwards of 145 days (cumulatively) and that’s if she opts to stay in school, which most do not.

Uganda currently has the third highest population growth rate in the world (3.3%). The country’s explosive population growth has not only strained infrastructure, but increases pressure -- both legal and illegal -- on the country’s natural resources, including forests and wildlife. Evidence shows that educated girls and women delay sex and marriage, and are more likely to use contraceptives, which collectively leads to smaller and more sustainable families, and ultimately reduces population growth. And these are in addition to the many positive impacts on economic growth and incomes, health, and productivity -- benefits so numerous the Brookings Institution characterizes girls' education as "the world's best investment with the widest-ranging returns."

In 2015, a team of Oxford University researchers tested the impacts of providing reusable sanitary pads (RUMPS) and puberty education on school attendance in rural villages in east-Central Uganda (see link below). Across the study region, girls’ attendance rates dropped as they started to get their periods, but for those girls provided with either pads, education or both, the drop was far less dramatic -- a nearly 20% difference!. The evidence is clear: Compared to doing nothing, simple interventions like RUMPs and education can have a substantial effect on girls’ education outcomes.

To help fill the gap in communities around Kibale, The Kasiisi Project’s outstanding health team not only leads sessions on menstruation and hygiene, but also trains both girls and boys, as well as their teachers, on how to make low-cost, reusable menstrual pads out of fabric. And they're sharing these skills within their communities. We're also working to ensure that our 16 partner schools have an adequate number of separate girls, boys and teachers' toilets, water points, and sanitation/wash facilities. These efforts support our broader goal of creating safe and healthy school environments where children -- both boys and girls -- can focus on learning.

A reusable menstrual pad (RUMP)
A reusable menstrual pad (RUMP)
Teachers cutting fabric for RUMPs
Teachers cutting fabric for RUMPs
RUMPs training
RUMPs training
Girls at Kanyawara Primary School
Girls at Kanyawara Primary School
Shamillah Tuhaise, our girls' health coordinator
Shamillah Tuhaise, our girls' health coordinator

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training
training

The Kasiisi Project, in collaboration with local trainers, held professionally led sexual harassment and child safety workshops in all Kasiisi Project schools. The trainings were also attended by representatives of the local churches, health facilities and education departments.  Student and teachers from the schools were able to participate in the trainings and learned what the Ugandan laws are in relation to sexual harassment as well as ways to make sure sexual harassment is not occurring in the Kasiisi Project Schools. The trainings also focused on child protection and ways to make sure children are safe at school and in the communities ! 

Group Game
Group Game
Classroom work
Classroom work
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In February 2019 The Kasiisi Project launched the Menstruation Journey design project. This project, involving six girls from St. Clements’ School in Toronto, Canada and six girls from Kasiisi Primary School in Western Uganda, is focused on the collaborative redesign of Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPs). Through the use of the “design process” both groups of girls aim to identify needs and problems surrounding the current RUMPs design and to reframe these challenges as opportunities for change and improvement. Through cross-cultural learning and communication, we hope to share information regarding the girls’ feelings, experiences, and perceptions of menstruation. To date, we have conducted two Skype sessions (which the Kasiisi girls have really enjoyed) and held 3 additional meetings. During these meetings we’ve used the SCS materials to guide conversations and open a dialogue about what it means to be a girl menstruating in the Kasiisi context. Through this project we hope to empower the girls to explore challenges in managing menstruation, foster empathy between the groups, and inform design decisions in making RUMPs. 

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Organization Information

The Kasiisi Project

Project Leader:
Barbara Cozzens
Watertown, MA United States
$301,908 raised of $400,000 goal
 
5,356 donations
$98,092 to go
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