MakaPads Helping Disadvantaged Girls And Women In Uganda 13/03/2014 by Hillary Muheebwa for Intellectual Property Watch 5 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)KAMPALA – In the western terrains of Uganda, in a refugee camp, Dr. Moses Kizza Musaazi invented and is running a simple but ingenious scheme. Making environmentally friendly sanitary pads out of papyrus reeds. The pads, MakaPads sanitary pads, are the only trademarked biodegradable sanitary pads made in Africa. Dr. Musaazi developed the idea and technique while looking for a way to help school-going girls. Dr. Musaazi is a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda. “I realised that the basic reason girls were missing school was because they could not afford sanitary pads during the menstruation periods,” Dr. Musaazi said in revealing what inspired him. And because the imported sanitary pads are expensive, they improvised with unhealthy materials such as banana fibres, grass, leaves, old newspapers and pieces of cloth. The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda observes that menstruation is the most important factor affecting school dropout statistics among girls because it looks unrealistic, yet it happens. World Bank statistics reveal that a girl misses up to four days of school every month due to her period. In total, she misses 10 to 20 percent of her school days. Many drop out of school after suffering the embarrassment of blood trickling down their legs or staining their uniforms and jibes from boys. After two and a half years of intensive research and development, in June 2006, Dr. Musaazi finally had the components ready to start production of cheap, biodegradable sanitary pads. The components are papyrus reeds, waste paper and water. “This is the best absorbent I have ever seen,” Dr. Musaazi noted. The new sanitary pad was named Maka, meaning “household” in native language. Before settling on papyrus, he had tested with many other natural fibres including banana fibre, water hyacinth, elephant grass and other vegetation stems and grass. These either lacked absorbent and retaining capacities, required longer processing or were unsustainable. “I finally settled on papyrus because it’s the best natural absorbent and retainant for fluids,” he said.“And it is abundantly available for free.” It is also very easy to process and doesn’t decay. The dried and crushed raw papyrus fibres are processed into a thick paste with paper and water. This is dried in the sun, smoothed, pressed and cut to size into absorbent inserts with manually operated machines. The pads are sealed in packs of three and then exposed to ultraviolet light to kill off all bacteria or germs. Cheap, Natural, Easy to Produce Because the sanitary napkins are made of natural materials and do not contain any chemical additives, they are almost 100 percent biodegradable and do not cause any major intolerances. The mostly manual production process needs very little electrical energy that can be generated via solar panels of total wattage 350 W. Subsequently, MakaPads are produced with minimal carbon footprint. Because the machines used in production of the pads effectively run on solar-generated power, the factory can be set up anywhere. It takes just a week to set up a cottage industry and start producing MakaPads. The production timeline, from harvesting the raw papyrus to passing out a ready-to-use pad, takes an average of four days. MakaPads is the trademark of the sanitary pads. It is a subsidiary part of the registered company Technology for Tomorrow Ltd, (T4T). T4T, founded by Dr. Musaazi, works on developing technologies for use in poor communities and bringing the products to market at a cheaper price. MakaPads are cheap, costing about 60 US cents for a pack of 10 pads, almost half the cost of other imported brands. T4T has since 2008, when it started commercial production of the MakaPads, established production points in different parts of the country. The majority of the workers in this labour-intensive production process are refugees. Currently, about five million sanitary pads are produced annually. “MakaPads are the only genuine sanitary pads made in Africa that are sold in Uganda. They are cheap, fully biodegradable and the only sanitary pads that are chemical free,” said Dr. Musaazi. For a pad to meet international standards, it must have at least four minimum attributes. It must have a separate absorbent layer, be wrapped in a non-woven material, have a plastic piece to prevent accidents, and have stickers to hold it. These are attributes that MakaPads boasts of. The sanitary napkins should be sanitized every time, to kill all the bacteria. MakaPads’ biggest market at the moment is in the refugee camps. Over 90 percent of the entire production is bought by United Nations agency for refugees, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This was reached under one requirement, that T4T employ refugees in its production personnel. The pads are then distributed by UNHCR into refugee communities in displaced people’s camps, and to schoolgirls in disadvantaged regions. “The MakaPads project is the only self-sustaining refugee project in the world,” added Dr. Musaazi. Think Locally, Trademark Globally Despite being cheap, only 10 percent of the produced pads are sold on the open market. This according to Dr. Musaazi is a mindset issue, because most people’s minds are biased against African-invented products. “We have tended to think that the technology which is imported from the western world is the best, and we have neglected our local technologies,” argues Dr. Musaazi. To slice into the open market, T4T will have to aggressively market its MakaPads sanitary pads beyond the walls of refugee camps and disadvantaged areas. MakaPads trademark is already registered with various registration and licensing agencies across Africa. Initiatives are underway to have the trademark registered and recognised globally. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Hillary Muheebwa may be reached at email@example.com."MakaPads Helping Disadvantaged Girls And Women In Uganda" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.