Women group's reusable pads initiative changes girls' lives

By Marion Ndung’u

It’s a cold Monday evening in Embaringo location in Kieni West, Nyeri. The location sits several thousands of feet above the ground near the Aberdares. The sun is out but the chilly weather still bites.

On one side of the road, water steadily flows and drains into rivers. The land is bountiful with food but behind the lush green and plenty is a lurking need; a need for sanitary towels. Young girls and women use old clothes when their menstruation kicks off.

A group of women have come to the rescue of many of these people by making reusable sanitary towels which they donate to the girls and women. They also teach them how to make the sanitary towels.

Kagongo Mwitaithia women’s group was started ten years ago as an investment group but has since evolved into a group that gives women and young girls a smile where they previously had very little to smile about.

Magdaline Wangechi, the chair lady of the group says she learned the trade from a white woman to whom she intended to sell a kiondo.

“We used to make kiondos and one day when I went to sell one to a white woman I found her knitting something. I asked her what it was and she explained to me. I later came and taught my group members what I had been taught,” said Wangechi.

This was two years ago and today they have given the reusable pads to some 350 girls and women. Over the two years, the women have been improving on their designs after brainstorming. This ensures they produce the most comfortable pads.

“Girls used to tear mattresses and when their periods kicked in, clothes would suddenly start disappearing in the house,” said Wangechi.

In the first year of business they used to buy materials from shops but as a result of financial constraints have now switched to second hand materials.

The women meet twice a month to make the sanitary towels and then donate them to needy people. Each person is given two pads. Each pad is made in such a way that it does not leak.

Besides making the pads they also teach girls to do so by using available materials at home. Every twice a month they go to a school for two hours where they teach the students how to make their own sanitary towels.

Besides teaching girls how to make sanitary towels they also educate them about on reproductive health. Wangechi said that boys would often use the predicament of girls to trick them into sexual submission.

“Girls have told us that boys would promise to buy them sanitary pads in exchange for sexual favours,: said Wambui.

Many parents are thankful to the new development as now their clothes do not disappear every month. Wangechi says that they also teach the girls how to remain hygienic by discouraging tem from sharing the sanitary towels.

Their biggest challenge is lack of materials and money to meet the demand for the pads. The members have to dig into their pockets to get money to but the necessary materials for their trade.