World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Women-led startup Nyungu Afrika making eco-friendly sanitary pads


World Menstrual Hygiene Day: Women-led startup Nyungu Afrika making eco-friendly sanitary pads
Woman holds the Oasis sanitary pads by Nyungu Afrika which are made from agricultural waste of pineapple and corn husk waste. PHOTO / COURTESY

Every second of every minute of every day, like clockwork, there is a woman and girl having her period. For most of them, menstruation carries inconvenience, stigma, shame and lack.

Period poverty is a pandemic that is affecting the lives of millions of women and girls globally. Period poverty is the lack of access of sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities and/or waste management.

In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Basic Education Amendment Act to provide free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every school registered girl.

On the flip side, according to fsg.org, 65% per cent of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads and resort to trading sex for pads, using unconventional products such as leaves, cartons and tissues which have been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections.

The few with access are still not completely out of the woods with cases of chronic irritation, itching and burning experienced due to the high levels of chemicals and plastic in the products.

That’s where Nyungu Afrika, a women-led startup founded by Mary Nyaruai, comes in. Nyaruai spent more than two years researching, mobilizing pad drives in different counties and realized the devastating effects of period poverty for women and girls.

The final blow was when a little girl committed suicide from being shamed by her teacher when she started her period in class. Nyaruai then teamed up with a leading material scientist to create an affordable eco-friendly sanitary pad made without chemicals and plastic.

For Nyaruai and her team, the journey to create Oasis sanitary pads was born. Oasis sanitary pads are made from agricultural waste of pineapple and corn husk waste. The disposable pads are 80 per cent biodegradable and deliver on comfort and absorption without compromising the health of women, girls and the environment.

Kenya generates millions of tonnes of agro-waste. After harvest, farmers majorly burn or leave the husks or leaves to rot causing air pollution. A small fraction uses the waste for manure.

Through winnings of two entrepreneurship awards, the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs and the Netfund Green Innovations teams have been doing research and development designing, prototyping and manufacturing the pads which are currently in the testing phase.

Every year the world celebrates the menstrual hygiene day with the 2021 global theme being; “Step up action and investment in menstrual health and hygiene now!”

Nyungu Afrika aims to create a positive impact for both consumers and non-consumers of sanitary pads by including them at all stages of the value chain—as entrepreneurs or employees in production, suppliers, distributors, health educators, and consumers.

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