My name is Everlyne Nabakka. I am 23 years old and was born and raised in Uganda. l am the founder of Eco-Uga Pads, a social business in the process of piloting a reusable, biodegradable sanitary pad made out of banana stems. This is my story.
Growing up in the rural areas of Uganda (specifically in Mukono), l often witnessed and experienced lack of safe menstrual hygiene. I witnessed the majority of girls and women being disturbed in their daily activities, whether this meant being unable to carry out their normal domestic activities, missing school on average 4-5 days every month, or even completely dropping out of school out of the embarrassment of not having menstrual hygiene materials.
Twenty-four sanitary pads are the recommended number of pads per cycle, but a package of six pieces from a commercial brand costs at least $1, meaning that around $6 needs to be spent monthly on sanitary materials to comfortably cover the entire menstruation cycle. Coming from low-income families where a father earns less than a dollar a day, rural girls cannot afford to buy pads beyond a dollar on a monthly basis. This leads to women and girls using unsanitary methods like scraps of old clothes, pieces of foam mattresses, leaves, and sitting on heaps of sand, which are the cause of many health problems, such as cervical cancer and candida.
Observing this situation in my own region led me to take action and do something about it. I realized that in Uganda there are lots of banana plantations, with each family having at least one banana plant in their garden, but yet they leave the falling leaves to rot. Banana fibers are known to be very water-absorbent, so I started experimenting with using them to make sanitary pads, in an attempt to create an alternative that could fit in the pockets of the low-income earning families.
This way, Eco-Uga pads were born. The Eco-Uga pads are sanitary pads that contain banana fibers that are produced from wastes of banana stems. The pads are washable and reusable for more than three months, as well as biodegradable. They even contain a small zip at the bottom that makes it possible to remove, dispose and replace the banana stems. The pads are also safe to use, as they are chemical-free.
The first prototype made it possible for Young Water Solutions to select me as one of the ten 2019 Young Water Fellows and receive training, mentorship, and seed funding of €5000 to pilot the Eco-Uga Pads in a community, which I will be doing in the next months. However, this dream does not end there: hopefully, with the support of further partners, I will be able to set up a small manufacturing plant, employ women to make the pads, and produce 200 pads daily in the near future.
As young people, it is possible for us to make a difference in the WASH issues from which our communities suffer. I am 23 years old, I am from Uganda, and I will be contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of hundreds of women in the short term. If I can do it, you can too.