MY PADS PROGRAM AWARDED DREAMS INNOVATION CHALLENGE GRANT
When Brick by Brick Uganda Finance and Administration Manager, Prossy Nakayiba wrote an e-mail to our Executive Director about the DREAMS Program it was on the evening of Good Friday.
"When is the deadline?" Marc asked.
"Tuesday, but I think we can do it!" Prossy responded.
For the next four days, including Easter Sunday we worked to get our 'Expression of Interest" submitted. Two months later we learned we were selected as a finalist. We then put together an international team, led by Ugandan grant writer, Margaret Namugamba, and for two weeks we researched and wrote a first class proposal. Two weeks ago, we received the news that we were one of 56 organizations awarded significant funding that will allow us to scale up the My Pads Program to reach 2400 students over the next two years. The DREAMS Program is a US Government led initiative in 10 sub-Saharan countries the goal of which is to reduce HIV incidence in women age 15-24 by 40% over a two year period. The My Pads Program is an innovative educational program that empowers young women with vital knowledge and life skills that can reduce their risk of HIV infection, unwanted pregnancies and dropping out of school.
According to UNICEF one in ten menstruating girls skips school for 4-5 days out of every 28 day cycle or drops out completely. That degree of absenteeism means means losing 13 learning days or 2 weeks, 104 hours of school every term. About 23% of adolescents between ages of 12-18 drop out after they begin menstruating. A study carried out by the Netherlands Development Association in seven districts in Uganda revealed that girls miss 10% of school days due to menstruation. “Girls with even primary level education are two times less likely to have had sex, while girls with secondary education are 3 times less likely.” About one-third of girls drop out of school between the ages of 10-14. Therefore an important part of any strategy to reduce the risk of HIV infection is to intervene early to keep girls in school and address any and all impediments to regular school attendance.
In a survey completed by Brick by Brick Uganda in 2012 among 139 girls in three UPE schools in the Rakai District, 78% reported using dirty old clothes or rags during menstruation. 88% said that they would not purchase Afripads (a locally manufactured hygiene product) at a cost of 12,000 UGX, 92% said they would be interested in making their own reusable pads at a cost of 2500 UGX. 34% reported missing days of school due to their menstrual periods at an average of 3.3 days per month. 23% told us that menses negatively affected their studies. We found profound lack of knowledge in basic reproductive health, with 96% of the respondents reporting they were eager to learn more.
In response to these findings, Brick by Brick Uganda launched the My Pads Program, an 8-week co-educational after school program focusing on reproductive and sexual health, gender equality and the promotion of healthy life choices. This program culminates in the fabrication by the students of a set of four reusable menstrual pads. To date this program has been implemented for 1000 students in the Rakai District, consistently demonstrating a 2-3 fold increase in knowledge regarding reproductive health. In 2015, we expanded this program to include a Training of Trainers component. This three-day workshop has been delivered in ten schools throughout Uganda with a plan to monitor program implementation in 2016 as well as expand this TOT program to additional Peace Corp Uganda schools.
Thanks to the initiative shown by Prossy, we will now be able to expand this program to thousands of young women in our district. You can help us to reach even more students with the My Pads Program by clicking DONATE