WEEMA explores new partnership for menstrual pad production

In India, a revolutionary 37-year-old known as the “Padman” is solving an age-old problem by creating low-cost sanitary pads for millions of Indian women. WEEMA staff recently visited with the Padman to see if the entrepreneur’s success could be replicated in Ethiopia.

Arunachalam Muruganantham, the “Padman”, invented a low-cost sanitary pad making machine that has made sanitary pads affordable and accessible to poor Indian women for the first time. More than 5,300 machines have been produced over the past decade and they’re now being used in every state in India, along with 27 other countries.

Despite numerous offers from corporations to commercialize his venture, Muruganantham only sells to women’s self-help groups and schools, which handle local production and distribution of the sanitary pads. By doing so, he creates local quality jobs for women.

Three WEEMA staff members met the Padman and they also visited a self-help group, which has four women employees who are making and selling about 1,000 cotton pads every day for 2 to 3 rupees each (less than 5 cents in the U.S.) A portion of their sales – 25 percent – is donated to local schools and for other community needs.

“It’s amazing,” said WEEMA Operations Manager Susan Daly, who traveled with Ethiopian colleagues Ashenafi Tadesse and Tewodros Belachew on the five-day trip. “They’re creating jobs making the pads and they’re providing a product that other women can buy and afford. There are health benefits, too.”

WEEMA’s visit was a first step in exploring whether the Padman’s model can be replicated in Ethiopia by engaging women’s self-help groups to produce and sell the sanitary pads - a venture that would substantially increase access to menstrual materials, while creating quality local employment. WEEMA already has 110 such self-help groups in place involving more than 2,000.

And there’s certainly a need: lack of access to menstrual supplies – and general information about hygiene and menstrual management – is widespread among girls and women in Ethiopia’s rural areas. In addition to health risks, this access gap contributes to girls’ absenteeism at schools - a problem that WEEMA is tackling head-on by distributing reusable pads to students at the Saruma Primary and Middle School.

“The India trip was inspiring, and we’re hoping we can bring this model of women supporting women to Ethiopia,” said Daly last week.

Stay tuned!

WEEMA Program Manager, Ashenafi Tadesse, and Country Director, Tewodros Belachew, after meeting with the Padman

WEEMA Program Manager, Ashenafi Tadesse, and Country Director, Tewodros Belachew, after meeting with the Padman

Under WEEMA’s leadership, midwives provide training on menstrual health to 405 students in the Saruma School in rural Tembaro, Ethiopia.

Under WEEMA’s leadership, midwives provide training on menstrual health to 405 students in the Saruma School in rural Tembaro, Ethiopia.

What's all the buzz about?

Our WEEMA beekeeping cooperatives continue to grow and thrive! 

Did you know that Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey in Africa? Beekeeping is a local and centuries-old industry in Ethiopia with large potential for growth. As a part of our work to promote economic empowerment in Ethiopian communities, WEEMA began our beekeeping cooperative program in 2014 by training 70 beekeepers in modern beekeeping methods.

Today, WEEMA beekeeping cooperatives continue to provide a sustainable source of income to families in Ethiopia. One co-op received over six acres of land and is in the process of building new infrastructure to expand their honey production. We celebrate the success of our program and our recent land grant from the local government!

Books in the hands of moms, babies and toddlers!

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Research has shown that early exposure to books shared with a loving caregiver creates the foundation for successful reading!

WEEMA International, in partnership with Reach Out and Read, is piloting an innovative program with our women's groups.  Four Self Help Groups (SHGs) each received a box of 20 different colorful board books selected with care for the local context. Each member takes home a book every week and engages with her children at home by reading together- pointing, interacting over the photos and drawings, etc. She then swaps for a new book the following week. After 20 weeks, the groups will exchange boxes with another SHG group.

The women are thrilled about this program. WEEMA will continuing working to get books in the hands of moms, babies and toddlers.

Enjoy the video below to see these books in action!

WEEMA Celebrates International Women's Day!

WEEMA staff in Ethiopia celebrated International Women’s Day with presentations promoting women’s rights.

The day’s activities were a collaborative effort of community stakeholders to end gender-based violence and to empower females. Participants ranged from students to parents to government officials of both genders.

Festivities began with a drama that focused on women's issues performed by members of the community. There also were poetry readings,  testimonials, storytelling and a presentation and tour of the new women’s menstrual hygiene and sanitation room at Saruma Primary and Middle School.  After the tour a discussion about the importance of menstrual health was held.