A Refugee-led Business Model for Menstrual Health
The project in brief
"I am very happy to be part of the training. The skills I have acquired here will improve my life and ensure that I am always self-employed. For me, this is my biggest joy because as a refugee, we are always dependent, and I am tired of this dependency."
- Betty, one of the women in the cooperative.
The project in brief
The project is implemented by HEKS/EPER (Swiss Church Aid Uganda) in Uganda. It began in February 2023 and is currently ongoing.
HEKS/EPER promotes menstrual hygiene practices through production of re-usable sanitary pads and other items such as soap, women’s underwear, and garments. Access to menstrual products is improved through a business model approach, which also contribute to sustainable livelihoods for women and young girls, whilst promoting sustainability of the project. To contribute to ending menstrual stigma, HEKS/EPER works with menstrual health gatekeepers to provide accurate information on menstrual health management in various grassroots forums.
Main activities of the Good Practice
- Formation of a women's group under a cooperative structure. 60 women (30 from the refugee settlement and 30 from the host community) brought together under one umbrella for economic empowerment;
- Training the group in the production of reusable pads, soap and garments and in advanced tailoring;
- Construction and setting up of a production hub on land offered in Lori subcounty by Yumbe district;
- Advocacy. HEKS/EPER is working with a local community-based organization registered as Yumbe Gender-Based Violence Network (YUGNET) to lobby and drive the conversation about proper menstrual health management as well as continue to bring awareness to the gaps and barriers. The advocacy efforts also include strengthening structures and systems to create an enabling environment. One such structure is the menstrual health management technical committee that includes partners from civil society and local government.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice include:
- Establishment of the national menstrual hygiene strategic framework;
- Uganda’s refugee policy that promotes an enabling environment allowing refugees to work;
- Effective collaboration and partnerships with the local government and various actors, including YUGNET, a women-led organization based in Yumbe district, where the Bidibidi refugee settlement is located;
- Positive response and active participation of the refugee and host community leaders and members.
- YUGNET – Yumbe Gender-Based Violence Network (YUGNET)
- Local government
- Leaders and Members of the Refugee community
- Leaders and Members of the Host community
‘’As a refugee, managing my period in a camp with community-shared toilets and bathrooms, sometimes with no water, became a monthly challenge in this new life. Some months, the blood came unexpectedly. I tried to anticipate it, but the pattern kept changing and made me very frustrated”
- Josephine, South Sudanese refugee and now President of her school's Health Club
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Lack of comprehensive background data to adequately inform project design.
How they were overcome
A literature review was undertaken to gather relevant data and information on access to menstrual products, product disaggregation, infrastructure and social barriers.
Results of the Good Practice
- Increased access to accurate information regarding menstruation, menstrual products and appropriate facilities;
- Increased access to reusable sanitary pads in schools and communities in Bidibidi refugee settlement;
- Economic empowerment of refugees through the attainment of skills in tailoring, production of reusable sanitary pads menstrual health education and garment-making;
- Gender justice through strategic advocacy that focuses on breaking social and cultural barriers to proper menstrual hygiene;
- Planning and prioritization of refugee women rights through the establishment of the menstrual health technical committee;
- Reduced menstrual stigma in schools, community and at household level.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
This Good Practice eases pressure on the host community by empowering the refugee community economically to support their livelihood under the cooperative structure. Additionally, the intervention contributes to economic empowerment and financial inclusion of women from the host community in the production hub and business.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The initiative promotes refugee self-reliance through a business model that empowers women from the refugee community through skilling in the production of reusable sanitary pads, soap, and garments for the improvement of their livelihoods.
After a few months of implementation, the project shows promising progress and preliminary results. Continuous monitoring, evaluation and learning will give further clarity about needs and opportunities beyond the project duration and will guide decisions to be taken regarding a possible follow up phase.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
- Construction of more production hubs;
- Procurement of improved pad-making machines;
- Technical and financial support to the menstrual health technical working committee.