Makapads in Uganda is among the winning innovations to receive the Siemens Stiftung’s international empowering people Award. Receiving over 800 entries from across the world, 23 winners were selected for their simple yet intelligent technological solutions to sustainably improve the lives of people in developing countries.
Dr. Moses Kizza Musaazi of Technology for Tomorrow in Uganda was awarded second prize for his sanitary napkins, Makapads, which are locally-made pads that make a difference to many women who would otherwise be marginalized in schools and workplaces because of a lack of alternatives. Less than one US dollar a day – this is the average income of people living in the west of Uganda. “Comforts” such as a packet of normal sanitary pads cost twice as much – a luxury that only few women there can afford. What applies to Uganda is also a problem for the female population of the poor regions in other developing and emerging countries. Rarely spoken about and even less frequently addressed, women have to make do with simple cloth rags, waste paper or banana leaves. This is not only largely ineffective, but also questionable under hygienic aspects.
The pads not only protect women from health problems and discrimination, but can also help to reduce the high rate of early school leavers amongst girls entering puberty.
MakaPads are made from natural biodegradable papyrus fibers, paper and water – without the use of electrical energy. The dried and pulverized papyrus fibers are processed into a thick paste with paper and water. This is dried in the sun, smoothed, pressed and cut to size into absorbent inserts with mechanically operated machines. The pads are sealed in packs of three and then exposed to ultra violet light to kill off all bacteria or germs. Because the sanitary napkins are made of natural material and do not contain any chemical additives, they are almost 100% biodegradable and do not cause any intolerances. The mostly manual production process needs very little electrical energy and can be generated via solar panels of total wattage 350 W. Subsequently, Makapads are produced with minimum carbon footprints. The inserts are 75% cheaper than normal sanitary napkins and 100% biodegradable.
Makapads also create local employment opportunities in Uganda. As the production of MakaPads does not require any special knowledge, they can be manufactured by untrained people, creating jobs in the community. As the pads are also made of local materials, the producers are not dependent on imports or contributions to establish their own business.
The winning solutions were selected for their ability to sustainably enhance living conditions in developing countries by enabling people to independently improve their supply for basic needs. The winning inventions also focus on the most crucial supply challenges that can make a real difference to lives in many regions. The “empowering people. Award” is much more than a contest: Siemens Stiftung set out to look for appropriate low-tech solutions, but it is also in the process of compiling all the solutions in order to make them visible and available to the public.
The winner of the first prize of the “empowering people. Award” Award, Martin Aufmuth from Erlangen, Germany, received 50,000 Euro for his ground-breaking OneDollarGlasses. With millions of visually-impaired people living in impoverished regions around the world, the specs costing just one dollar provide a valuable contribution in empowering individuals to lead lives in which they can study and work unimpaired.
Winning the third prize with a combined water and energy solution, David Osborne from Celsius Global Solutions, UK, received 20,000 Euro for his innovation, the Jompy Water Boiler. This lightweight, inexpensive fire top device enables households to cook a meal whilst at the same time heating water to temperatures high enough to kill waterborne bacteria. Since the energy needed for cooking can thus be used more efficiently, the fuel costs for poor families can be dramatically reduced.
A further 20 winners received prize money of 5,000 Euro each. The prize money is, however, not the only asset awarded by the Siemens Stiftung. The foundation will also be supporting selected inventors in further developing their innovations and in promoting their broad implementation on the ground.
The long-term aim of the Awards is also to connect developers and users of interesting products and solutions as well as potential investors and development organizations.
“We are delighted with the ingenious and passionate inventors and their promising results presented here in Nairobi”, stated Rolf Huber, Managing Director of the Siemens Stiftung. “We are convinced that all of these solutions will have a great impact on the lives of people in developing countries. By empowering individuals, we can empower communities, with long-term effects. We have twenty-three winners here today. But we know that by embedding solutions in operative projects and business models, we will be able to create many more winners in the world.”