Project Description

MHM ProjectDriving private sector investment when addressing menstrual hygiene management issues.

Did you know there is a correlation between lack of access to menstrual care solutions and girls dropping out of school in Uganda? B- Space has been asked to advise SNV Uganda on the strategic choices they could make to maximize their added value for the MHM market, with a focus on public-private partnership initiatives and sustainable solutions.

Break the Silence on Menstruation

The magnitude of the problem has raised a lot of awareness since the last year or so, thanks to the combined efforts of several NGO’s globally and here in Uganda. SNV and partners even hosted the very first East African Menstrual Hygiene Management Conference, which took place on August 14-15. The two-day Break the Silence on Menstruation: Keep Girls in School conference aims to build support for the creation of a menstrual hygiene policy to address the challenges that schoolgirls face during menstruation, ensuring that girls get the support they need to complete their studies.

But, how to trigger private sector investment?

We have become increasingly aware of the gender roles, education, taboo’s and myths that are important aspects of MHM related problems. We also know, there are many challenges which rural school girls face when it to comes to sanitary pad use, such as challenges in washing and drying of re-usable pads due to lack of water, soap and privacy in sanitary facilities. Limited availability and choice in rural areas, and no household budget that caters for a girl to buy sanitary pads. But, what to do about it?

We hardly knew where to begin when Mapping the Market and trying to identify market based solutions…

Suggestion for public private partnership interventions:

We engaged with various market actors in the MHM sector in Uganda, in order to understand:
i) If and how they try to reach the low income consumer ( BoP) and
ii) How development actors can facilitate the improvement of the MHM sector at large

We did a quick literary review, but mainly conducted qualitative interviews to gather insights from various stakeholders in the commercial sanitary care market and contacted 40 retail outlets across Uganda.

Curious? Please download the Mapping the Market report here.

Based on the findings of the report, SNV and B-Space invited those market players that are selling/ will be selling to the BoP to a Multi Stakeholder Workshop. The main objective of the workshop was to hear from the market actors how best SNV can partner with them and facilitate access to affordable and quality menstrual care products for the BoP and availability in areas least covered (West Nile, Karamoja, Southwest).

SNV and B-Space are now in talks with Capstone, Days for Girls and AFRIpads, to tackle their Business Development Support needs.

Capstone is an Ugandan company, producing sanitary pads through contract manufacturing arrangements in China. Product design, packaging, marketing and distribution is done by Capstone. Their consumer brand is Secrets, appreciated in the market by the middle to high end, urban consumer. The Company recognizes the BoP is an important and neglected growth area for their business. Therefore, they plan to develop and distribute an affordable disposable sanitary pad for the BoP segment in Uganda , which will retail at about 50-60% of the price of current products. The company has agreed production and pricing plans with their manufacturer.
The company mainly needs technical support for development of Marketing Strategies effective for the BoP and for the development of Innovative Sales and Distribution models to reach the last mile.
AFRIpads is a social enterprise producing and marketing washable sanitary pads in Uganda and recently also Kenia.

AFRIpads indicated that they seek business development support from SNV in order to create a robust retail model with nationwide coverage.

Currently in its 5th year of operation, the company has sold nearly 400,000 menstrual kits to date and provides full-time, formal sector employment to almost 150 Ugandans, 90% of whom are female and rural-based. The company has two distinct market segments: NGO supply (worldwide) and retail sales (Uganda). The company’s retail market segment is far less developed than its NGO market. To date, the company has sold over 50,000 products to end-users in Uganda, demonstrating a baseline for product acceptance and ‘willingness to buy’. However, despite BOP consumer interest in its product, AFRIpads has faced numerous challenges establishing viable distribution networks and sales channels, and financing available for marketing has been minimal. Over the past 12-months, AFRIpads put intensive attention into analysis of consumer insights and feedback, product R&D and prototyping, direct sourcing of raw materials, driving supply chain and manufacturing efficiencies to reduce the cost of goods sold, and optimizing retail positioning and branding. In early 2015, AFRIpads will launch a high-performance new product design, which will be sold under a new commercially-oriented retail brand. Importantly, this brand will be distinct from company’s NGO-facing brand and will not be subsidized.

Is there business in making re-usable pads as a micro franchisee?

Days for Girls Uganda is piloting a micro-franchising programme. They train rural women to become a re-usable menstrual health kit producer. The women are equipped with a seed package with material for 65 kits, (ii) sowing skills manual (iii) reproductive health manual (iv) business skills manual. The difference with other Make Your Own pads projects, is that the micro enterprises that are created will be included in the supply chain of DfG Uganda, ensuring control over quality of raw material used whilst being able to negotiate better prices when buying in bulk. The micro franchisee can (re)order their stock by phone and pay by mobile money. DfG is supposed to make a small profit on the supply to ensure sustainability of the programme.

SNV is interested to support activities that can strengthen the micro-franchising programme to run it as a business.