By Pamela Tsimbiri Fedha, member of the Rotary Club of Nakuru, Kenya and David Copp, member of the Rotary Club of Davis Sunrise, California, USA
Many girls in Kenya miss school during their menstrual periods because they cannot afford commercially available feminine hygiene products. They “make do” with pieces of cloth, towels, or anything else available to them. Lack of affordable sanitary pads has led to embarrassing moments for some girls, leaving them stigmatized and with reduced self-esteem. Recently in Kenya, a school girl took her own life following an embarrassing moment.
The Rotary Club of Nakuru in Kenya (District 9212) and the Rotary Club of Davis Sunrise in the United States (District 5610) are working together to try to alleviate this sad problem in the Nakuru region.
Our first objective was to train women in the community on reusable sanitary towel production and marketing in order to help them start a cooperative making reusable sanitary pads. Pads made by the women during the training period would then be distributed to girls from schools in Nakuru and nearby villages. Once the cooperative is established, it will provide access to affordable, hygienic and high quality sanitary pads for girls and women in the community. Our second objective was to empower women who participate in the cooperative by providing them a way to make a living despite limited opportunities for women living in rural and slum areas of Kenya. The project is intended as a pilot for similar projects that we hope will be carried out elsewhere in Kenya and Africa. District 5160 awarded the Rotary Club of Davis Sunrise a District Grant to fund this project.
- Members of the Rotary Club of Davis Sunrise formed a sewing team and worked for over a year fine-tuning and testing designs for reusable sanitary pads. The team’s design is being used in the project.
- The project committee of Rotary Club of Nakuru identified three women’s groups in Nakuru and two nearby villages who were interested in learning to produce reusable sanitary towels.
- The women were supplied with sewing machines and materials for producing the sanitary pads.
- A trainer was identified who has assisted in training and supervising the women in production.
- A business model for a cooperative is being developed that will ensure continued sanitary towel production and provide income for the women.
- Members of the Rotary Club Davis Sunrise visited Nakuru and helped committee members from the Rotary Club of Nakuru distribute pads in local schools.
So far the project has distributed over 4,000 pads to girls in ten schools in the Nakuru area. The response by some of the students has been overwhelming.
One surprise is how important this project has been to the women who are sewing the pads. It has given them a sense of purpose and community. One of the women said (in translation from Swahili): “This project brings hope to many girls and women beginning to take charge of their feminine hygiene. We are also happy that our work is meaningful to so many girls. We are grateful to Rotary.”