MY August trip to Nairobi, Kosele and Homa bay in Kenya partially funded by the GoAbroad Fund was an amazing experience. I went as part of the Lilypads project (logo pictured left), within Enactus. Along with three other Edinburgh University students we are setting up a social enterprise selling affordable, reusable sanitary pads to women and girls in Kenya and providing menstrual health education with the aim to ensure young women can remain in education.
The pads can be seen in the pictures below, they come in packs of 3 in a little bag. Considering the pads last two years, the pads at 10% of the cost of disposables, this is a long term solution to save money.
65% of women in rural Kenya are unable to afford sanitary products and resort to clothes, newspaper, leaves or obtain sanitary products through transactional sex. Girls as young as 14 have ‘boyfriends’ (with an age range of 25-70) who exchange sex for money, clothes, food and sanitary pads. With an HIV rate officially at 25% (many people are unaware HIV have no symptoms so refuse to get tested) this is can be a deadly transaction. When we had focus groups and we talked to girls and women about these issues, there are many (very surprising) ways in which people say prevent the spread of HIV and pregnancy. The lack of knowledge about contraception (especially condoms) shocked me, especially when considering contraception is free to everyone in Kenya.
We caught up with previously trained beneficiaries, learning about how the menstrual health education teaching was going and gave them new pads to start selling. In the picture to the right, you can see 3 of our 12 Kosele sellers holding our new pads, just before they started selling.
We’ve now expanded to Homa Bay. We trained six new women in Homa bay to start selling and even found a shop which would be willing to start storing and selling Lilypads for us, which was very exciting. We also trained a few university students, with the intention that they would go to their universities, become Lilypads ambassadors, train a few fellow students and start selling and educating.
On my trip I learnt some Swahili, about Kenyan culture but mostly to appreciate the things we take for granted in everyday life. Speaking to so many women and girls about the hardships they face every day with a product which to me is so readily available and something I would never consider having to go without was really difficult to hear. Some of the stories we heard were heart-breakingly inspirational, and I couldn’t help forming a strong attachment to the friends I made out there. I will definitely be returning as soon as possible!