When Stacey Frankenstein-Markon discovered that girls in Uganda often used rags, old socks or wads of newspapers to do the job of sanitary napkins, she was shocked. She was even more horrified to realize that purchasing commercial pads was an impossible dream for most of them, since they come from families of subsistence farmers making about $1 a day in disposable income.
“Disposable pads cost $1 for an 8-pack,” says the 25-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer, who with her husband, Tony Markon, is serving in Uganda as part of Michigan Technological University’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program in applied science education. “If a family has three daughters who need pads, that family would have to spend 20 percent of their income just on menstrual pads. Who can afford to do that?”
The pad problem also was leading girls to stay away from school, fearing that they might stain their clothes and be badgered by boys, Frankenstein-Markon said. Eventually, they fall so far behind that they have to drop out.
But thanks to the inventiveness of another Peace Corps Volunteer who had served in the eastern Ugandan region just before the Markons got there in 2010, the Michigan Tech student has been able to help hundreds of girls practice better hygiene while they learn about menstruation, their bodies and women’s health. And not incidentally, stay in school.