It is no secret that menstruation, is still considered a social taboo in many parts of the world. There is common theme of silence when conversations about the subject come up. As though it is not as natural as breathing. This is challenge inspired Richard Bbaale, a 2016 TEF Alumna from Uganda to create BanaPads.
BanaPads is an award-winning social enterprise registered in Uganda and Tanzania with the aim of manufacturing affordable and eco-friendly (100% biodegradable) sanitary pads. The pads are also collected to be used as manure and this means that the waste that goes to the local landfill will be reduced since the banana pseudo-stem is a recyclable product.
In Uganda, Richard’s home country, the stigma and negative stereotypes around menstruation also means a direct impact on the education of girls in that region. 20% of girls aged 13-18 miss at least one day of school during their period, and girls who were menstruating missed school on 28% of ‘period’ days compared to 7% on non-period days. This aggregated to absence from school of around 11% of teaching days.
For Richard, the solution to this was in two folds – tackle the difficulties Ugandan women face in menstruation management, thus helping to keep girls in school and create jobs for women in poor rural areas. He created a unique business model to help him achieve these two goals seamlessly.
Some women in Uganda not only consider conversations about menstruation as ‘awkward’ they also struggle to afford adequate sanitary materials. To mitigate this, Richard created a network of female sales agents, called Bana Champions. They are trained to not only sell the sanitary pads directly to women at home but also spread awareness of menstrual hygiene, receiving a commission on sales in return.
Richard began selling BanaPads in a small Ugandan village in 2010 and has since expanded his customer base to 25,000 customers by the end of 2018 and distributes at least 5 million pads annually.
Thank to Richard and the remarkable work he continues to do with BanaPads, more women can access affordable sanitary products and earn a living by spreading the message of proper menstruation management with their fellow women.