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Uganda Innovates

This Ugandan Startup is making low cost sanitary pads out of sugarcane!

It all started when Lydia Asiimwe Sabiti the Founder of EcoSmart Pads, met a 16 year old girl Kyomuhendo who had travelled a long way, hailing from her village in Rwanyamahenbe, the Western part of Uganda.

Kyomuhendo was being escorted by her mother in search for better health care at Mbarara Regional referral Hospital. She had developed wounds in her vagina that had first presented with itching soon after her menstruation period.

“As I approached her, I could tell she was in so much pain. Her eyes were swollen from crying and her mother seemed weary from managing her daughter’s pain. They couldn’t find their way through the hospital so I offered to walk with them to the department of Obstetrics.” Lydia explains.

As the two walked and talked, Lydia learnt that due to failure to afford sanitary pads, Kyomuhendo had been using 3 pieces of the same old cloth over the last 2 years of managing her menstruation. She learnt that the same cloth was shared among 3 of her sisters and 2 other cousins who all lived with them.

Her mother mentioned with distress that the cloth had not only changed color over time but had also developed a very bad odor making it increasingly uncomfortable to wear at school or any other public place.

“I silently concluded that this form of menstrual management was the source of Kyomuhendo’s pain and I was determined to do something about it. A week later I was selected to participate in the CAMTech Uganda internship programme and I got my chance to tell this story.” Lydia explains.

When Lydia finally told her story, two other students on the programme were inspired to act and they joined her and together, they formed a team. The team grew to be known as the EcoSmart Pads team and they have figured out a way to upcycle sugarcane fiber into a material that they are now using to make low cost and eco friendly sanitary pads that people like Kyomuhendo will be able to afford. Their vision- To ensure equality, vibrancy and dignity in menstrual management among girls and women in Uganda.

The Eco-Smart Pads idea

The Eco Smart Pads are sanitary pads made out of sugarcane recycled residues for girls and women of menstrual going age from low income backgrounds.

“Sugarcane residues at sugar manufacturing factories are the raw materials to our product and are obtained at an affordable price.” Lydia says. She is convinced that this idea will work because of the low costs of production that will significantly lower the price of this product.

The team first conducted an experiment in the Microbiology lab at Mbarara University of Science and Technology to determine which one of the two between Maize and Sugarcane had residues with a high absorbance rate. Sugar cane emerged with a higher absorbance percentage and was selected as the plant to be considered as a raw material for this innovation.

“We did conduct a needs assessment, interacted with our end users and generated findings from them that are ones now informing our price estimates and what the product packaged quantities will be.” Lydia explains.

Lydia conducting a Focus Group Discussion creating awareness about the pads.

Right now, EcoSmart pads team is sending on the market a 12 piece pack (because the end users said on average each would be conformable to use 12 pieces in a single menstruation period).

“We are selling each pack at UGX 1500  cutting down current costs by 50%, 90% of the end users we interacted with said they could only afford to pay between ugx 1000 – 1500. We are not looking to generate much revenue from sales because we are selling to low income earners. We are looking to work with philanthropists to cause impact in our local community. As for the sustainability of our company, we are looking at other income generating options.” Lydia elaborates.

These pads are also disposable. The team figured you don’t give a reusable pad to uneducated- rural based -low income earners and expect them to maintain it at its required high standard hygiene levels. They will maintain it the same way they maintain the old cloth that they use – washing it at night and keeping it wet under their beddings. It will cause infections and you will not have made any difference The EcoSmart sanitary pad is disposable and our packaged quantities allow them to change the used pad at least 3 times a day which is more healthy.

This fits well in the target beneficiaries of the pads. The primary beneficiaries of this product are school going girls from low income backgrounds whose pursue of education has been affected by this challenge.

Other non school going women from low income backgrounds such as women in prison, refugee camps, public hospitals, are also primary beneficiaries of this product. Generally, female Ugandans from high income earning backgrounds will too benefit from the low cost of this product as they will be able to make some saving.

The issue of menstruation

Menstruation is one thing which almost every woman has to deal with. Every month.

Many Ugandan women still use scrap cloth from old saris and towels, the traditional method for managing menstruation for thousands of years.

On average, a single woman generates 125kg of sanitary waste during her menstruating years when she uses disposable sanitary products.

A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty percent of a given school year.

Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating. Young women miss twenty percent of school days in a given year due to a lack of facilities or a lack of information or a lack of sanitary products.

In june 2017, EcoSmart Pads told their story during UNFPA’s Up Accelerate challenge and the judges were touched. They won a $10,000 to move our idea from inception to prototype development.

Don’t you think Eco Smart Pads is going to change this status quo?

 

Purely Ugandan

Y+ Beauty Pageant: This Pageant Aims at Fighting Stigma And Discrimination of Young People Living With HIV

On 25th September, the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) launched the 7th edition of the Y+ beauty pageant under the theme “Changing The Narrative.” 

The new Mr. and Miss Y+ Central region 2020/21

The Y+ Beauty Pageant is a novel concept that was developed to celebrate beauty with zero stigma and zero discrimination together with having zero new infections and having zero AIDS related deaths. The entertainment calendar has several beauty pageants and, one of which is the Y+ Beauty Pageant that has been on for the last seven years.

The beauty pageant has, over the years, served as a platform to young men and women (16 to 25 years) living with HIV to become voices to the voiceless, pillars of boldness and strength to those still afraid of HIV testing, these young people also share testimonies of assurance that acquiring HIV is not the end of life. Which is not that easy.

Nicholas Niwagaba the team leader at UNYPA speaking at one of the Y+ Beauty Pageant pre-events

“Our mandate is to better the lives of young people living with HIV/AIDS (YPLHIV), and we boldly take it upon ourselves to ensure that we fight stigma through the Y+ Beauty Pageant. Over the years we have managed to position young people in the fight against stigma and in so doing, HIV,” said Nicholas Niwagaba, the team leader at UNYPA.

The COVID- 19 virus has worsened stigma towards people living with HIV/AIDS, the current pandemic threatens to reverse the accomplishments that have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

As soon as the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Uganda on 19th March 2020, strict lockdown measures were enforced, including a ban on all public and private transport, night curfew, closure of schools, suspension of religious and social gatherings, and closure of non-essential shops and markets.

UNYPA ambassadors were supported with transport as well as bicycles to conduct the door to door home visits for fellow YPLHIV, face to face conversations, SMS for psycho social support to ensure adherence and positive living among YPLHIV.

UNYPA therefore, organizes the 2020 Y+ beauty pageant for YPLHIV in order to re-echo their voices, co- create to build a strong, energetic, creative, and productive generation able to address the multiple dimensions in which stigma and discrimination affect young peoples through raising awareness and empowering Y+ Ambassadors both male & female as champions to challenge HIV related stigma, discrimination & gender based violence within their communities. 

The Y-Plus pageant model in Uganda is now a nationally and international recognized and awarded model for a successful fight against HIV related stigma and discrimination, increasing awareness on HIV prevention but of more critical concern still largely remains unaddressed the problem of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and society’s attitude to it is still a big concern.

The contest doesn’t focus on looks or beauty, but on a young positive person being a role model for other young people with HIV, on being able to advocate for the needs of young people, and to increase acceptance and understanding of young people living with HIV in society.

Through its yearly cycle, the Y+ Beauty Pageant has so far bred over 844 ambassadors who are part of a generation of YPLHIV youth champions advocating for and working towards an HIV stigma-free Uganda. The campaign shall be staggered in three stages: regional auditions; central- Kampala, eastern- Kamuli, western- Kabale and northern- Kwania followed by the boot camp, and a grand finale event on Friday 20th November 2020. 

About UNYPA

UNYPA is a youth led and youth serving organization coordinating meaningful engagement of young people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS in Uganda in the National, Regional and Global HIV/AIDS response.  With a membership of over 50,000 young people; UNYPA works to implement National Evidence-driven Advocacy programs that address HIV/AIDS related stigma and discriminations, Gender inequalities and promote Young People’s empowerment and universal access to integrated SRHR (SRHR) and HIV/AIDS information and services. UNYPA is driven by the needs of young people living with HIV and implements an evidence informed national programme and advocacy for YPLHIV to lead healthy and productive lives. 

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Uganda Innovates

The Golazo Project: A Hat Trick For Poverty Alleviation, Promises to Create Over 10,000 Jobs For Ugandan Youths, and Boost Productivity of 1.8million SMEs

The Golazo Project is a local initiative being undertaken by Golazo Sports Limited to create a minimum of 10,000 jobs for the youths in Uganda as well as a practical approach to increasing productivity of 1.8million Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by at least 30%;

thereby facilitating the transformation of the nation’s economy to shift from peasantry towards middle income status.

The ultimate goal of the project is to empower SMEs, and young people with tools, capacity building, coaching, and offering them a platform through which they can achieve their sustainable goals so they in turn can support other young people.

The Project is subdivided into three platforms; Gigs, Ug Tickets, and Bonga!.

Gigs 

According to their website, ‘Gigs’ is an online platform focussed on addressing the challenge of unemployed youth by linking them to hiring SMEs for freelance jobs, and offering training courses to enhance their capacities for productivity.

As the word ‘gig’ suggests, this is not a full time form of employment, however, it offers young people a chance to get freelance jobs, improving their work experience, as well as earning them survival money.

This is expected to create about 105 jobs for young people per week.

Ug Tickets

UG Tickets provides a modern, easy, convenient and most importantly a service tailored to the local market.This helps service providers and SMEs reach an average audience of over 50,000 potential clients per week and handling an average of Ugx152 Million in transactions per year thus creating about 112 jobs for young people each month.

You too could add your ticketed event to the platform at no cost here >> https://www.ugtickets.com/

Bonga!

Commonly taken as a greeting among many people, Bonga shouldn’t surprise you. This is a network of community based Libraries in green spaces to tap into the transformational power of the internet to inspire learning and innovations with a capacity to create 224 jobs per month and generate about Ugx252 Million in annual gross revenues.

If well executed, and supported, the Golazo Project has the capacity to create over 10,000 jobs for young people in Uganda, and this is just what we might need to reach middle income status as well as alleviate the high levels of unemployment in Uganda.

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Uganda Innovates

Makerere University Students Build Computer from Scratch

BY MARVIN MUTYABA & ISAIAH NGABIRANO

Computers today have become part of our lives that basically most of the things we need are in these machines. With so many benefits like quick information and communication, entertainment, entrepreneurship, activism and so much more, the computer use has become an extension of the human fabric.

The growing movement of digital migration in the world has opened a worldwidedemandfor innovation and inventionwhich has given rise to the exceptional programmers and inventors who have created appliances and tools that have revolutionized the way we do everything. This picture features Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla among other inventors.

In Uganda, a group of youths have added their names to this list by building an organic computer, using their knowledge from school and exposure to computers.

The group is spear headed by Ivan Karugaba Junior, a student of mechanical engineering at Makerere University who gained inspiration to develop a computer through personal experiences

One evening at campus my computer was stolen and this got me asking myself why couldn’t I develop my own computer since that’s what we learn in class,” he narrates “Developing the first prototype of the computer was not an easy one and it involved a lot of research and commitment from the team. There were so many lows but we worked as a team and persisted until we came up with a functioning computer, it was a huge achievement to us.

The mother board of the microfuse computer

Having done his internship in Shenzhen,the high-tech hub of China, Ivan gained a lot of experience in developing computers and established some connections as well. This has helped in steering the development of their computer.

When he returned from the one month internship, Ivan decided to start acompany with some colleagues from school, Ochieng Elvis a computer engineer, Etwalu Emmanuel a mechanical engineer, AineamaniTwesigye a software engineer and Nyakoojo Oscar an industrial artist which they called Microfuse, after their computer.

Microfuse is a multipurpose device that can function as a computer at the same time as a media box with the capability to use a low power consumption of a rate of 5w connected to any display, projector, monitor or TV and a computing functionality as Microsoft office. It can also turn any TV into a smart TV, enable access to online connection, live TV and radio channels. All these marvelous features are to come at a simple price of UGX 350,000 (USD 96) with all the necessary accessories attached.

Microfuse basically means joining small parts together to come up with one strong and reliable equipment.” He says. “Microfuse’s aim is to make affordable computers to the normal Ugandan. I believe that every Ugandan deserves to own a computer. It’s absurd to find that someone studies computer in their A-level and the only time they get to use a computer is when they are doing their final papers which is not pleasing and this is majorly because the current devices are expensive and most Ugandans live below the poverty line you cannot expect them to afford these devices.

Ivan however states that the microfuse will be ready for distribution after the team embarks on batch production, which they haven’t been able to do due to the lack of funding and support for their project. He however,believes that the funding will eventually come in the near future since people have started appreciating their motive and the products they intend to produce through the numerous exhibitions that they have participated in.

Ivan (left) at one of the exhibitions

The team has also started a training program to help young Ugandans who are ready to learn and attain some skills in mechanical and computer engineering.In this way, the group is able to transfer knowledge to these youths which they can use in their innovations.

The microfuse team on one of the trainings

Microfuse is located in Wandegeya, Maricha Centrum Building, Ground Floor, office number A3. Tel: +256772292171Email: microfuseug@gmail.comWebsite: www.microfusetechug.com

 

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