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The innovation keeping Ugandan girls in school

Education | By Girl Effect Team

Monthly menstruation means that millions of girls in developing countries skip up to 20 per cent of the school year simply because they cannot afford to buy mainstream sanitary products.
Paul Grinvalds and Sophia Klumpp founded the AFRIpads company in Uganda to combat this. Their unique, reusable, affordable sanitary pads have already made a huge impact on Ugandan girls' lives: "They offer girls the ease, comfort and dignity of being able to attend school without worrying about periods," says Sophia.
It's a remarkably simple solution to a complex, long-standing problem. When a girl takes time off school it triggers a domino effect. Missing lessons means that she will fall behind in the curriculum, putting her at an immediate disadvantage to her male peers.
This absence leads to generations of girls in the developing world with fewer qualifications, limited access to job opportunities and less time spent building social networks, confidence and life skills.
The 85 per cent of girls who leave school early in Uganda equates to £6.5bn in lost potential earnings, which has a significant impact on the country's GDP.
Since starting the company in 2009, Paul and Sophia haven't looked back. "We have grown from selling a few hundreds kits to having reached over 125,000 girls and women," says Paul. "It's logistically simple, it's environmentally friendly and it reduces the waste stream that is already a challenge in a country like Uganda."
The menstruation kits they sell cost the equivalent of just £2.78 and last for a year. Without the kits, many girls have to rely on home-made solutions during their menstruation each month. "Makeshift devices made with old cloths, rags and in more extreme cases things like newspaper, toilet paper and leaves are used by girls to absorb their periods," says Sophia.
AFRIpads provide girls with a simple alternative during menstruation and the demand for them has been huge. Sophia explains why Ugandan girls have responded so enthusiastically: "The ease of use, the price point and being able to buy something once with the security of knowing they have nothing to worry about for the next 12 months. The worst-case scenario is for a girl to stay at home from school altogether because they have no access to anything."
Paul and Sophia have big plans for the product. Once the Ugandan model has been perfected, expansion to other African countries is planned, including Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Find out more about the AFRIpads initiative
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Read about Pachamama, another project that's stopping menstruation from keeping girls out of school

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