Peace Corps Volunteer Tackles a Sensitive Women’s Health Problem in Uganda

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. 


Africa Master's International Peace Corps Volunteer Peace corps Uganda gender gender inequality health hygenie menstruation reproductive health sanitary napkins women's health Michigan Tech graduate school grad school

World Water Day - Did you know?  

Fetching water is part of the gender inequality. Check out these statistics from the United Nations Water for Life initiative: 

  • In rural Benin, girls ages 6-14 spend an average of one hour a day collecting water compared with 25 minutes for their brothers.
  • In Malawi, there are large variations in the amount of time allocated for water collection based on seasonal factors, but women consistently spend four to five times longer than men on this task.
  • In Tanzania, a survey found school attendance to be 12 per cent higher for girls in homes located 15 minutes or less from a water source than in homes one hour or more away. Attendance rates for boys appeared to be far less affected by distance from water sources.
  • In 12% of households children carry the main responsibility for collecting water, with girls under 15 years of age being twice as likely to carry this responsibility as boys under the age of 15 years.
  • Research in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that women and girls in low-income countries spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water—the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire Work force in France.
  • In Africa, 90% of the work of gathering water and wood, for the household and for food preparation, is done by women. Providing access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads, and free up time for other economic activities. For their daughters, this time can be used to attend school.


Africa Asia Benin Eastern Europe Malawi Sub-Saharan Africa Tanzania UN United Nations Water for Life Water for Life gender inequality water water day world water day Solomon Islands Haiti Caribbean