According to UNICEF one in ten menstruating girls skip school for 4 to 5 days out of every 28 day cycle or drops out completely. That degree of absenteeism means losing 13 learning days 2 weeks, or 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. About one-third of girls drop out of school between the ages of 10 - 14.
In a survey completed by Brick by Brick Uganda in 2012 among 139 girls in three Universal Primary Education (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 ($3.63 USD), 92% said they would be interested in making their own reusable pads at a cost of 2500 UGX ($0.76 USD). 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 9-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 1700 students throughout Uganda, consistently demonstrating a 2 to 3 fold increase in knowledge regarding reproductive health. In 2015, we expanded this program to include a Training of Trainers component.
In 2016, we were awarded a US State Department funded DREAMS Program Innovation Challenge Grant to expand the My Pads Program to 16 secondary schools in the Rakai District of Uganda serving 2400 young women.