Many of you liked my article, Small idea, big impact: Recycled soap last week, so this week I wanted to highlight another simple innovation making a huge difference in Africa: affordable sanitary pads. I recently spotted a feature on them in Inc. Magazine and thought I’d share his story with you.
Dr. Moses Musaazi (pictured left) may look like an ordinary guy, but he’s single-handedly changing his country of Uganda for the better with affordable, simple innovations for the economically disadvantaged.
Although he works on a range of projects and products with his organization, Technology for Tomorrow, one of our favorite inventions is the MakaPad, his affordable version of the sanitary pad. Its goal — to reduce the rate of female absenteeism in school — seems indirect, but it’s not.
Dr. Musaazi was surprised to discover that an extremely high rate of girls in Uganda skip class or stop going to school once they reach puberty because of the inconvenience of their periods. Many girls can’t afford sanitary napkins and have nowhere to wash up at school. Even if they could afford napkins, there isn’t anywhere to dispose of them.
He decided to tackle this problem from all sides — the napkin itself, the disposal system and access to clean water. In 2006, he introduced the MakaPad, a sanitary napkin made of papyrus and paper waste, manufactured locally in Uganda without the use of electricity. This is a more affordable alternative to traditional store-bought products, cutting the cost by about 50 to 75 percent.
He also invented special incinerators to dispose non-biodegradable waste in schools. They are also built on a larger scale so they can be used in hospitals and clinics.
His final invention helps provide clean water through rainwater collection tanks, gathering rainwater off of buildings to be used for community members’ cleaning and sanitation.
Today, not only have MakaPads helped thousands of mostly rural Ugandan young women stay in school and go to work, but they have been beneficial to women living in Ugandan refugee camps. The UN now purchases these pads in bulk and delivers them to the camps. In addition to this, some refugees are actually employed by MakaPads, and now working for livable wages.
Dr. Musaazi is an inspiration to the Ugandan community as a whole and is extremely determined to make his home a better place to live. Keep up the good work Dr. Musaazi!
Photo at top: Teenage Ugandan girls in school