Helping girls go to school during their periods and reduce trafficking risk

A group of 30 young people in Uganda have learned to make reusable sanitary towels to enable girls to continue attending school during their periods, and reduce their risk of being trafficked.

The children are not only running their own social enterprise which is already benefitting girls and young women in the slum area of Kampala, but they are now set to learn tailoring as a group. They have also already learnt many skills to empower themselves and reduce their own risk of exploitation in the future.

The local Hope for Justice team were first introduced to the group of girls and boys through our network of local contacts. None of the children were at school, and some were trapped in forms of modern slavery including sexual exploitation and forced labour.

We began supporting the group by providing life skills training, covering areas such as decision making, communication, growing up and achieving goals, to empower them to take back control, plan and enjoy their lives.

Hope for Justice then worked with the young people to create the social enterprise, which targets girls’ absenteeism from school as one of the root causes of modern slavery. Many families in the area cannot afford sanitary towels, and so girls use rags or toilet paper instead, which often leads to their clothes becoming stained.

This, together with the stigma associated with periods and a lack of health information and education means that often, girls don’t go to school for about a week each month during their period. This can lead to them dropping out of school altogether, placing them at higher risk of being trafficked into forms of modern slavery including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or street vending.

In order to get the new project off the ground, we provided training and materials including a sewing machine, cotton and other essentials, as well as hygiene information to the group, so they can reduce stigma and spread the word about personal hygiene in their community.

The group then began making and distributing the sanitary towels to girls who cannot afford them, ensuring they are able to continue going to school. Some sanitary towels will be sold in order to fund the ongoing project.

And the group has now identified a community leader who will teach them tailoring skills which will also help them be self-sufficient in future.

Our team are in touch with the group regularly to ensure their future wellbeing. We will provide the right support as the need arises, be it counselling, referral to other specialist services, or facilitating vocational training or apprenticeships.