We take having 4 weeks in a month for granted. But, imagine getting to 12 years old and all of a sudden there are only 3 weeks in a month.
In too many communities, menstruation is a taboo subject. There is little to no advice available for girls and no access to affordable sanitary pads; forcing many to use rags or leaves which can cause the contraction of menstrual diseases. The lack of understanding results in girls feeling like they have to stay at home, missing out on as much as 25% of their education or dropping out altogether.
From Enactus’ phenomenal SanEco sanitary towel project, Petal was born. Creating entrepreneurs who make and sell reusable sanitary towels and deliver menstrual health education to everyone in the community.
Using the learnings from 4 years of implementation, we are now in Uganda training 3 organisations how to set up Petal businesses in their communities. The start of the Million, Million, Million plan where Petal businesses with support 1 million women and girls.
So the Petal training begins
The start of the day was a bit of a mad rush, preparing the sewing machines and conducting the morning Introduction to Petal session.
We had a beautiful overlock machine just back from refurbishing… and it doesn’t work. After an hour of fighting with it I jump in a jeep and set off to see the expert, expecting for a quick 10min fix, tightening or fixing some nuts. An hour later and the machine is in parts on the table in front of us… but we get it all working!
I returning to the team in full flow, adapting the Petal business to the local culture. The excitement in the room is tangible, everyone is talking about each little improvement to the business and the impact that it will create.
The second half of the day ended with the menstrual health education. It was shocking to hear some of the stigmas and stories that affect the community: Women on their menstrual cycle not allowed to carry other people’s babies… Sitting in a hole in the ground to contain the blood… and girls at school being bullied when they start menstruating; “The cow has given birth” the boys say.
Despite this, we left feeling inspired by the amazing positivity in the reaction of the men in the team and the drive to not only educate the other men but to recruit men as entrepreneurs to work alongside the women.
The result: One Petal business with 5 mixed sex entrepreneurs who will provide over 2000 women and girls with sanitary towels in its first year.
Tomorrow, we design the final enterprise in Lira. Our Roots social franchise addressing sanitation and fertiliser access.