Responding to a clear need revealed by one of the Femlead Girls Workshops, Femlead commissioned a feasibility study to determine how possible it would be to set up a small unit to make disposable sanitary pads using local raw materials and local labour. The aim was to distribute sanitary towels free of charge to all the girls at the Busiiro Secondary School and Healing Orphanage. The secondary aim was to create a cottage industry which would help alleviate local poverty.
The feasibility study (completed in September 2017) was conducted by Professor Brekmans Bahizi in collaboration with Femlead’s Esther Bagoole.
The study included the following actions:
- Project Justification.
- Possible locations for the unit.
- Assessment of the current situation including written and verbal interviews with the main players in the community: senior women teachers, head teachers, the chair-person of the local council, the parish councillor, local leaders and a selection of local school girls.
- Assessment of the present cost and availability of sanitary pads. The survey included information about how girls of menstruation age coped without access to safe, hygienic sanitary protection.
- Technical Feasibility: including availability of raw materials, storage, technology, machinery, training of local labour, transportation and distribution.
- Proposed solutions to various local shortcomings: scarcity of water, scarcity of banana stems, adjustment of available machinery to fit local resources and capabilities.
- Financial feasibility: capital investment, running costs, long term sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Before fundraising could begin Femlead needed to address the negative impact the sugar cane industry had made on the region. Land had to be acquired to replant the staple banana foodstuff that had been rejected in favour of sugar cane. Banana suckers needed to be bought in to replace what had been lost. Although the variety used for food is not quite as suitable for pulp fluff-filling for sanitary pads, Femlead decided to start with a mixed crop so that the farmers could harvest bananas for food as well as for cash crops. The waste products, the stem fibre needed for the manufacture of the absorbent filling for the sanitary pads, would be used by the Femlead production unit.
It is this stage of the project that Femlead is working on now.