Uganda Red Cross Society in partnership with Randal Charitable Foundation on 11th August 2023 commissioned a re-usable sanitary pads manufacturing plant in Namakwa – Mukono district aimed at significantly improving the lives of up to 50,000 Ugandan girls and women, as part of the Keep A Girl in School initiative.
The manufacturing plant purposes to manufacture 200,000 re-usable pads this year, which is an equivalent of 50,000 four-pad packs. Approximately 20 percent of the pads will be given to 10,000 vulnerable girls in-school free of charge while the remaining 80 percent will be commercialised to 40,000 girls and women in the wider community at a subsidised price, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of the manufacturing facility.
Significant grant funding from the Randal Charitable Foundation enabled this landmark social enterprise project in Namakwa, Mukono district of Uganda, working in partnership with the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS). The Keep A Girl In School (KAGIS) Manufacturing Plant was officially opened by the URCS Secretary General, Robert Kwesiga, and the Founder and Chairman of the Randal Charitable Foundation, Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, together with the Director, Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda, Ismael Mulindwa.
Speaking during the launch ceremony, URCS Secretary General Robert Kwesiga said, “Keep A Girl in School is a Menstrual Health Management (MHM) initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) and launched in 2019, which highlights that girls are missing school because of lack of sanitary pads to use during their monthly cycle. We would like to thank the Randal Charitable Foundation for their significant support towards the setting up of a manufacturing plant in Uganda which is aimed at keeping more girls in school through manufacturing and provision of re-usable pads. Over the next 3 years, URCS is scaling up production of re-usable pads to reach up to 100,000 – 150,000 women and girls in Uganda.”
In order to help the vulnerable girls stay in school, Kwesiga moved on to encourage more partners-both public and private-to sponsor the Keep A Girl in School program by purchasing reusable pads for donation from the recently established manufacturing plant.
Founder and Chairman of the Randal Charitable Foundation, Dr Nik Kotecha, who was born in Uganda before emigrating as a refugee to the United Kingdom as a child in 1972, said: “For many women and girls, poor access to high quality sanitary pads, as well as to toilets and washrooms, is a huge barrier to attending school and can result in seriously limiting future career choices.”
“This ground-breaking partnership with the Uganda Red Cross Society will help secure a future free from “period poverty” for tens of thousands of women and girls each year. It’s truly humbling to meet women and girls who will benefit from the wide-ranging outcomes of our manufacturing enterprise here today, from locally based jobs to training and high-quality sanitary protection.” Dr. Nik Kotech emphasised.
He further notes, “One of the main reasons the Randal Charitable Foundation was passionate to invest and make this project a reality was the potent combination of practically tackling the serious issue of period poverty for young girls and unleashing their future potential—alongside local job creation.”
Ismael Mulindwa, Director of Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education and Sports, applauded the initiative, stating, “The factory directly addresses the issue of girls missing out on educational opportunities, who may do so for 18% of the academic year due to inadequate sanitary protection during their menstrual cycle.”
At the heart of this remarkable change is Paula Kobusigye(21), a school drop out whose life has been profoundly touched by the collaborative efforts of the Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) and the Randal Charitable Foundation. Kobusingye is now a tailor with the Keep A Girl in school initiative in Namakwa – Mukono, sewing up to 40 pads daily. With the guidance of skilled mentors, she not only learnt to sew reusable sanitary pads but also gained vital business skills in marketing and administration.
Kobusingye’s transformation mirrors the broader impact that the factory is having on Ugandan girls and women.