Shredded Office Paper Transforms Girls’ Education

July 23, 2010
Women Turn Shredded Paper Into Sanitary Pads in Uganda

About the Author: Megan Larson-Kone is the Regional Refugee Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.

Sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference. In Uganda, young women are often hindered from pursuing a secondary education by a lack of basic supplies. This is particularly true for refugee girls and women. Of the 140,000 refugees hosted by Uganda -- primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Sudan -- approximately half are women and girls. When menstruating, the vast majority do not have access to the sanitary materials necessary to easily continue their education or other daily tasks. For girls hoping to pursue secondary education, this is a particular problem, and they often miss one week of school each month because they lack the materials to cope with their periods with dignity.

Enter Makapads -- a microenterprise established by Makerere University Professor of Engineering Moses Kizza Musaazi in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Makapads stands for Menstruation -- Administration -- Knowledge -- Affordability. It produces sanitary napkins using paper made from recycled office paper and papyrus fibers. The process uses manual labor with solar-powered heat sealers, and an ultraviolet sterilization unit. Makapads can produce about 3,000 sanitary napkins per day, but could do more if they had access to more recycled paper. Embassy Kampala's Greening Diplomacy Taskforce teamed with UNHCR to help provide this raw material that allows Makapads to run. Each month, shredded, unclassified office paper is delivered to the Makapads factory in Kyaka II refugee settlement in western Uganda via UNHCR. The Makapads staff mixes this paper with pounded papyrus fibers to create absorbent material that is assembled into sanitary napkins.

The benefits of this collaboration go far beyond environmental friendliness: this program helps ensure a better life for refugee women and girls, with fewer constraints on their ability to continue their daily activities. UNHCR purchases the Makapads to distribute in sanitary kits every quarter. To date, they provide half the female population with Makapads products (the remainder receives the traditional cloth strips as part of their sanitary kit). As soon as Makapads can make more, they will cover the remaining half. Refugee families often have little-to-no ability to earn income, so they are unable to purchase these items for themselves. Makapads has the potential to expand across the region, benefitting countless other girls and women, because Makapads cost half the price of imported sanitary napkins.

Additionally, Makapads is run by, and employs, refugee staff: out of 35 employees, 30 are refugee women -- mostly single or female heads of household. These staffers earn the equivalent of $30-$60 per month -- an income level they would not have dreamed of before working with Makapads. This income helps them to support their families and send their own daughters to school.

The Embassy's involvement with the project started when its Greening Diplomacy Taskforce was looking for a way to recycle the Mission's waste office paper and reduce their carbon footprint, but it ended up having a far greater impact. A small effort by the Mission helps create far deeper social, educational, and economic rewards for the refugee community living in Uganda.

Related entry: A Simple, Practical Program That's Changing Lives



Natalia R.
July 23, 2010

Natalia R. in Mexico writes:

I think this is a wonderful idea and I would be more than glad to help. I am Mexican and currently live in Mexico City. What can I do to join to this amazing cause? If I would be able to collect the recycled paper from my office would I be able to deliver it to the Embassy in Mexico City?


South Korea
July 24, 2010

Palgye in South Korea writes:

Women's rights and human rights?

(yunna Kim? Do you ever wonder why you do not like?)

Women in South Korea to claim their human rights and disability created by my mother rallying around President Lee and his crew removed haneungeot not? Nevertheless, I and my mother to complain that they are not even. Others tried to retaliate .. I've never fought their way to a target you've never? Broadly would harass my family? Will have to fight me, and opinions differ. Also my parents differently from me will appear to them, and gotten absolutely friendly. Their courage to attack the family and servants to do with chinhalsuneun not? Policies and opinions differ on just live with the world in different ways, and be more unfair to them a few times here, that will be left post. I did something wrong? Advancing from the direction of their thinking is different from the way people think like me to try and chinharyeogo What's wrong is the appearance? Understanding attitudes toward North Korea, but they look good and very hard to accept the truth, I like to think. I have done the crime is that I did not did not tell my family. My parents are old now, the ruling party's side since I was driving myself to my parents, is not an act of political terrorism? If you attend a demo on me than normal with the nature that keeps them becoming a burden, because, to annoy me that, I wept hard to ordinary people becoming exposed, I think my parents than it is against the terrorism. The problem there is another generation of my parents, for fear you think I keep trying to hide to avoid the essence.

Human rights and women's rights in South Korea claim to eliminate the problem from this - how to get rid of the gang do not you? Themselves and is different from their own force people with disabilities create and monitor and to tap them, the other power likewise is these that limit exceeded think .- The country's politics region based on the payable - philosophy or ideology, rather than - In this situation, even if what you think. Honestly, would like to burn up one place to call.

Human Rights? Does such thing exist in Korea? I have many times he and their crew for the better for them something that make you think he was, and now the finger all fired them want. (The opposition and for the advancement of something that was that, remember that I think. Rich, the logic of my mind. Their property should be protected and the rest should be sacrificed for them ..)

The last I remember about my mother has left me feeling a little bit to think the world would understand. However, for me, even if wrong, give birth to me is a mother, I am still alive, while looking at the picture it is to live and suffer. Son of a bitch on the news crew would run the country wondered'm out.

Does nothing to fear nothing while watching my parents do not feel so wet, I was more angry.

For a particular region or specific figures, but alienated the country's efforts to layer it's what is wrong? Dismissal or resignation is not meant for the regime, I think. (Of course, a stupid guy like me to use the hidden forces must admit with all due respect. But they must think beyond the limits prophet long.) Economy as an excuse a lot from the people wouId Atgo forced to think.

I know they would have to refer to stories - individuals do not have the right to ensure that what you do I create a website? - Families that have applied for further the raises do not know how many times are you waiting for. If you do that, I've got to war?

so very sad day.

July 26, 2010

Melissa in Switzerland writes:

This is a great example of innovation in humanitarian aid!

November 12, 2010

Martina M. writes:

its a great idea for girs because education is most imp to any girl or men but Refugee girls of UK is very demolished so good work.


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