Sustainability and Systems Change Via a Sanitary Pad

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It is a fundamental human right for a girl or woman to have the ability to manage basic biological functions. Yet four in five East African women and girls cannot access sanitary pads due to their lack of affordability.

Girls without access to pads can miss up to six weeks of school annually, putting them at risk of joining the 60 per cent of female students who drop out, and making them four times more likely to become a teen mother or to join the ten per cent of drop-outs who contract HIV. The ensuing effects on the health system and GDP are enormous.

Unhygienic pad alternatives – rags, foam mattresses, grass – can lead to urinary and reproductive tract infections (UTIs/RTIs). Additionally, links have been drawn between untreated RTIs and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. If RTIs are left untreated in pregnant women, it is estimated that they are responsible for up to 15 per cent of fetal deaths and up to 50 per cent of prenatal infections.

ZanaAfrica may have a solution. It is the first Kenya-based enterprise that couples the production and packaging of both reusable and disposable sanitary pads with the delivery of health education via comics, marketing a range of free health resources to women and girls.


Megan Mukuria is the CEO and founder of ZanaAfrica. “My father treated me very much like a son, taking me fishing and shooting and always said that anything boys could do girls could do better. The idea that girls grow up believing otherwise is unacceptable. Every girl deserves to feel valuable, talented, and free to exercise her own voice, and to forge the future she wants,” she says.

Having lived in Kenya since 2001, Ms. Mukuria discovered early on that pads were often girls’ number two expense every month. As she learned how girls often missed school or engaged in transactional sex for pads, she saw “how the provision of pads and health education changed what girls deemed possible for themselves.”

Source: The Globe and Mail (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
systems change