Bana, a Ugandan based social enterprise, manufactures low-cost sanitary pads from banana pseudo stems and distributes them through a network female entrepreneurs, called Champions. As well as selling pads, Champions provide menstruation education within their communities, especially young girls. Bana and Champions strive towards breaking the silence surrounding menstruation through women’s health education and pads.
To learn more about this project, watch the Team Banapads 2015 video.
As Bana expands and the network of Champions grows, Bana needed an in-depth assessment of the Champions, their livelihoods, and how these women impact their communities. Therefore, through qualitative data we conducted a social impact assessment of the Champions. Secondly, in order to efficiently communicate with Champions and the manage inventory records, Bana required a mobile application for sales tracking and inventory management.
For our social impact research, we conducted over 50 interviews with Champions and village members. The interviews took place in 4 separate Ugandan districts. Of the 46 Champion interviews, 25 were individual and 8 were conducted in groups consisting of 2 to 3 Champions. Interviews were conducted with the use of a semi-structured guide and a translator. These open and robust dialogues explored the lives of Champions before joining Bana, the impacts of becoming a Champion, and what this means for their future. Additionally, we conducted mobile inventory management workshops with Bana and Champions to test-pilot the mobile application for sales tracking. You might enjoy this video describing our field experiences in Mpigi.
Through our interviews and ethnographic observations we observed the impact Champions have on the community. We found that Bana fosters power and agency among women on multiple levels. Champions expressed an increase in their sense of power and agency on individual, familial, and communal levels. The leadership skills they developed have extended into virtually every aspect of their life. The impact of Bana reaches far beyond economics. Bana fosters confident, driven, and determined Champions.
Additionally, we concluded that Champions create community health education with a special focus on young women. Champions feel pride and purpose in what they do. They understand that their goal is not only to make money, but also to inform and educate others about proper menstruation management. Every woman deserves to know her body and how to take care of it. Champions are on a mission to spread their knowledge to make this a reality. Frequently, the lack of information, surrounding taboos, and embarrassment associated with menstruation stifle dialogue and breed ignorance. Champions actively seek opportunities to break the cultural silence surrounding menstruation, deliver health information, and raise awareness.
Champions are also family mediators. The vast majority of interviewed Champions described instances in which they mediated dialogues between parents and their daughters. This is essential to ensure that young girls are receiving the support they need from their parents during menstruation. Champions are frequently approached to facilitate dialogue, and do so with empathy, trust, and discretion. They become trusted advisors.
We Are Champions: The Women Behind a Social Revolution in Rural Uganda A social impact assessment of Bana and its Champions This report utilizes data from our interviews to convey how Bana has impacted the lives of Champions, as well as how the Champions are creating widespread change within their communities by breaking the silence of menstruation. The report is divided into three parts. The first part introduces Bana and the concept of Champions. The second section details the process of becoming a Champion and the skills they gain through Bana’s training. Lastly, the third part reveals the impact Champions have on the community, especially young girls, their families, and on an individual level.
Mobile Inventory Management: Through mobile training workshops, we worked with Bana and Champions to establish a mobile application that will Champions to text in their weekly sales progress and request additional inventory. Through Frontline SMS, a cloud-based data tracking software we created two manuals. The first manual for Bana administration details use of Frontline SMS for mobile inventory tracking. The second manual created for Champions outlines instructions for tracking their sales via SMS. Understanding and utilizing this technology will allow Bana to communicate with their Champions as well as receive sales reports. The new system will allow for greater accuracy, transparency, and more efficient inventory management.