A major new initiative has its sights set on combating period poverty in Uganda and improving the lives of up to 50,000 girls and women in the country a year.

The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has partnered with the Randal Charitable Foundation to open a special manufacturing plant which aims to produce 200,000 reusable menstrual pads annually.

The Keep a Girl in School (KAGIS) Manufacturing Plant, which opened on 11 August, is described as a ‘landmark social enterprise project’.

Approximately 20% of the 200,000 quota of Grace Pads will be donated free of charge to 10,000 vulnerable girls in school; the remaining 80% will be sold at a subsidized price in the community, ‘ensuring the long-term viability of the facility’.

The initiative received a grant from the Randal Charitable Foundation, the hope being that the rollout of essential personal care items made possible by the funding will significantly reduce the rate of period-related missed educational opportunities among school-aged girls.

The plant will also provide skilled employment opportunities for local, vulnerable girls and women who will be trained to manufacture and market the pads, providing them with transferrable business skills.

Ugandan-born Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL (pictured presenting a pack of Grace Pads to a school girl in Uganda’s Mukono district), founder and chairman of the Randal Charitable Foundation, comments: “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.

“The Randal Foundation is passionate about enabling every young person to reach their full potential, and equal access to education for girls and boys is an essential part of this. We are also huge advocates of supporting communities out of poverty by creating long-term sustainable economic opportunities and employment.

This ground-breaking partnership … will help secure a future free from ‘period poverty’ for tens of thousands of women and girls each year

“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 from our manufacturing enterprise here today, from locally based jobs to training and, of course, high quality sanitary protection.

“The powerful combination of practically tackling the serious issue of period poverty for young girls and unleashing their future potential – alongside local job creation – is why we were passionate to invest, to make this project a reality.”

Rachael McCormack, chief operating officer, the Randal Foundation, adds: “This facility is especially close to our hearts because of our unwavering vision to directly save lives, and significantly improve the quality of life for those in need.

“Period poverty is a global problem. Our community-based social enterprise, creating high quality, accessible sanitary protection, together with the URCS, will help to tackle this, here in Uganda.

“Missing school has a lasting, adverse impact, often meaning that girls go on to miss out on employment and other opportunities throughout life. We hope our project will ensure more women can complete their education and be able to make life choices which mean they can fulfil their true potential.”

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Having spent the early part of career putting her BA (Hons) in Media Writing to use as a freelancer writer across a number of industries – from wellbeing, food and travel to design and events – Rosie Greenaway’s post as editor of Natural Products News and Natural Beauty News began in 2017. In 2018 she co-launched NPN’s 30 under 30 initiative, is a regular presenter and speaker on industry panels, is a judge of several awards schemes in food and beauty (from the Soil Association’s BOOM Awards to the Who’s Who in Green Beauty Scandinavia) and acts as an Advisory Board Member for the Sustainable Beauty Coalition.