Period Poverty in VenezuelaMenstrual products are instrumental to a woman’s daily life. These products, deemed nonessential by many governments, affect women in their home life, work and education. However, up to two million Venezuelan girls and women end up victims of an economy in crisis, unable to afford the basic menstrual necessities. Several organizations are addressing period poverty in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Inflation Crisis

Venezuela’s economy, once rich and booming, has fallen into a crisis over the past two decades. By 2014, 90% of the country’s earnings came from oil. However, as oil prices dropped, an economic collapse began. The value of the Venezuelan currency fell, and as a result, the cost of goods increased.

At the time, the newly inaugurated President Nicolas Maduro made the executive decision to print more money. This intended solution simply made the problem worse as an increased supply in currency only decreased its value even more. Maduro’s government continued to print more money to combat the falling prices, creating a dangerous cycle of hyperinflation. The current inflation rate is an estimated 9,986%, the highest inflation rate globally.

How Hyperinflation Impacts Menstrual Products

Due to hyperinflation, many women in Venezuela are affected by period poverty. One package of sanitary pads can cost more than a quarter of a month’s salary. A box of tampons is even more inaccessible, costing “up to three months’ salary.” Women who cannot afford these prices are forced to improvise by creating “temporary pads made of old socks, toilet paper or cardboard.” These makeshift menstrual products carry health implications for girls and women, putting them at heightened risk of toxic shock, urinary tract infections and other diseases.

Period Poverty Affects Education and Employment

Menstrual products affect not only a woman’s health but also every aspect of her daily life. Women who cannot afford products often have to miss school or work as a consequence. For school-aged girls, this can total 45 days of the school year missed. Since education is linked to poverty reduction, a lack of menstrual products exacerbates cycles of poverty. By missing work, womens’ incomes are reduced, intensifying conditions of poverty.

Sustainable Menstrual Solutions

Sustainable menstrual products may provide a solution to addressing period poverty in Venezuela. While standard pads and tampons have to be regularly purchased due to their disposable nature, menstrual cups are resilient and reusable, proving both effective and affordable.

Marian Gómez, the founder of The Cup Ve, created a menstrual cup that costs $10-$20 and lasts about seven years. This proves significantly cheaper long-term compared to buying monthly disposable menstrual products.

Sisters Marianne and Véronique Lahaie Luna also recognized the potential of menstrual cups in reducing period poverty in Venezuela. Their NGO, Lahai Luna Lezama, donated more than 400 menstrual cups to Venezuelan migrant women in 2019 alone. More than 300 menstrual cup recipients reported that the menstrual cups significantly transformed their lives.

Menstrual Education in Venezuela

Menstrual myths and stigma as well as a lack of menstrual education also exacerbate the issue of period poverty in Venezuela. To address this, Plan International hosts educational menstrual workshops for migrant girls and women. The organization distributed hygiene kits to more than 41,000 “Venezuelan people in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.” Plan International’s future plans include not just giving out resources but opening the conversation around menstruation.

The commitment and dedication of organizations help to combat period poverty in Venezuela, removing barriers to female advancement and development. By combating period poverty, global poverty is simultaneously reduced.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in Kenya
For many young girls in Kenya, properly managing a menstrual cycle with adequate sanitary products is a luxury. Roughly one million Kenyan girls miss out on education each month because they are unable to afford menstrual products. Girls and women are unable to work or participate in education for days at a time, placing them at a disadvantage in comparison to their male peers. Some girls even resort to sharing menstrual products in a desperate attempt to find a solution to period poverty in Kenya. Though access to menstrual products is a multi-faceted issue in Kenya, activists are making it possible for girls to properly manage their periods and continue with life as usual.

Period Poverty in Kenya

Research shows that 65% of Kenyan women and girls are unable to afford basic sanitary pads. As a consequence, girls often rely on the men in their lives for period products and some girls engage in transactional sex in order to secure sanitary products, perpetuating a patriarchal cycle of reliance and exploitation.

Milcah Hadida

Menstrual hygiene ambassador Milcah Hadida is combating period poverty in an innovative way. Hadida collects sanitary products from donors and delivers the products to vulnerable girls in Kenya via bicycle. Through her efforts, she has reached 2,300 girls in just five months.

For her mobilization against period poverty in Kenya’s Tana River County, Hadida recently received the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal. This award “recognizes exemplary service in the areas of public health and nursing education.” In addition to delivering period products to girls in rural Kenya, she has also called on the health administration of the county to develop policies to address period poverty.

Megan White Mukuria

Megan White Mukuria is the founder of ZanaAfrica, a social enterprise founded in 2007 with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. ZanaAfrica combats period poverty through a hybrid model of feminine products and education. ZanaAfrica manufactures and distributes high-quality, low-cost menstrual products through the Kenyan marketplace. The enterprise couples the distribution of sanitary products with sexual and reproductive health education.

Through this combination, Mukuria and her team build a safe ecosystem where girls can navigate their adolescence in a safe and healthy manner. They also frame the period products through an aspirational lens, “creating safe spaces to learn about health and reclaim dignity.” Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has supported ZanaAfrica with several grants. Between 2013 and 2018, ZanaAfrica impacted almost 50,000 girls in Kenya.

Emmie Erondanga

Emmie Erondanga is the director of Miss Koch Kenya (MKK) women’s advocacy NGO, founded in 2001 with the aim of addressing the vulnerability of young girls in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, Kenya. MKK intervenes against socio-economic issues that contribute to the disempowerment of young women in Kenya and provides free pads to girls in slums, when possible.

MKK’s work has been increasingly relevant with the impacts of COVID-19 as thousands of girls struggle to access sanitary products in lockdown. Because government pads are only accessible at school, Erondanga’s mobilization has helped fill gaps in the Kenyan government-funded sanitary towel program. Erondanga has been instrumental in advocating for reproductive health education in Kenya, aiming to reduce the stigma around periods and puberty.

When girls and women have adequate access to menstrual products, they are able to continue with their school and work endeavors. Overall, a world without period poverty means girls and women can contribute to economic growth in a more significant way, thus reducing global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Flickr

Her Drive
The term “period poverty” describes the inability of girls and women to afford menstrual products such as pads and tampons. Though these items are essential to women, many areas of the world still tax menstrual products and the products are not eligible for coverage under food stamps. Her Drive is an organization with the aim of addressing period poverty in order to empower and uplift girls and women across the world.

The Impacts of Period Poverty

Low-income women often cannot afford the costs of menstrual products and turn to less sanitary alternatives such as rags or paper towels. These alternatives pose health risks and increase the chance of infections and irritation. The inability to afford menstrual products also takes a mental toll on women, leading to depression and anxiety. Furthermore, period poverty can impede women’s professional lives, keeping them trapped in poverty. Improperly managed periods can stop girls and women from attending school or going to work, which keeps them in cycles of poverty. Period poverty is a pressing issue that hurts women’s physical and mental health and perpetuates the poverty cycle.

Menstrual Stigma

People often avoid addressing the problem of period poverty because of the stigma around periods. Many people think of periods as a shameful process that they should not speak of rather than a normal biological process. Menstrual stigma means women suffer in silence. Fortunately, with the rise of social media, organizations and movements aim to end menstrual stigma and educate people on menstruation in order to address period poverty. Through these advocacy efforts, campaigns and relief initiatives garner support to provide menstrual products to girls and women who cannot afford them.

Her Drive Addresses Period Poverty

Best friends Alexa Mohsenzadeh and Jenica Baron founded Her Drive in 2020. Her Drive got its start from a viral video posted on TikTok, a popular social media platform that allows users to post short videos. The pair’s first TikTok video simply intended to promote a tampon and bra drive, but after it went viral, the girls decided to transform their project into a Chicago-based organization.

Her Drive collects menstrual products to donate to “women’s shelters, indigenous reservations, Black-owned businesses and refugee support programs” as well as other vulnerable groups. The organization has held menstrual drives in more than 40 U.S. states and extended its reach to Canada as well. Her Drive has also provided guidance to organizations looking to create similar drives in countries such as the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. In support of vulnerable indigenous groups, Her Drive donated menstrual products to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund and the poverty-stricken Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Her Drive’s goal is also to “empower and educate the next generation of youth leaders to work to eliminate period poverty in their local communities.” Her Drive has collected more than 165,000 period products in addition to thousands of bras and general hygiene items. What began as a simple TikTok video grew into an international organization that is combating period poverty and helping vulnerable girls and women.

Impact of Social Media

Period poverty is still a prevalent issue, but social media is helping to create awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation. By leveraging social media, organizations are amassing volunteers and donors to help combat period poverty across the world.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Unsplash

Period Poverty in South Africa
Many women menstruate monthly for an average of 40 years of their lives. In many countries, like South Africa, women do not have access to the sanitary products they need each month. Period poverty in South Africa affects girls and women by preventing them from working and going to school. This creates stigma surrounding periods and has a negative effect on their overall hygiene. However, several organizations are working to combat each of these components of period poverty.

Since up to 7 million South African girls do not have access or cannot afford to buy sanitary products, many of them must stay home. Many also report using old clothes and newspapers as sanitary pads when they cannot use sanitary products meant for periods. This is unhygienic and can cause other health problems and infections. Often, girls and women must choose between buying food and sanitary products because of the costs. When faced with this difficult choice, many choose to purchase food as it takes more of a priority. As a result, many must face the health and social consequences of not having sanitary products.

Period Poverty in Schools

An estimated 30% of South African girls do not attend school while they are on their period because they do not have sanitary products. Many often experience teasing in school when they attend while on their periods. The frequency of period-related mishaps increases when girls do not have access to the proper sanitary products. In turn, this causes teasing and also reinforces a stigma surrounding periods. This makes it more difficult for women and girls to voice their concerns about their periods. Many lack access to period products out of fear of others ignoring or ridiculing them.

As more girls miss school while menstruating, it is more difficult for them to learn. With limited education, there is less of a chance for girls to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. This is the crux of period poverty in South Africa.

Organizations Helping

While there are many problems that come with period poverty in South Africa, many organizations are using their platforms to increase access to sanitary products. They are also aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding periods.

In 2018, a group of student activists organized protests under the slogan and hashtag #BecauseWeBleed to end the 15% Value Added Tax on period products. In 2019, the South African government dropped the tax thanks to the efforts of these students and others.

Project Dignity is an organization that distributes reusable sanitary pads and has been reducing period poverty in South Africa since 2010. The name of these sanitary pads is Subz and they come in a pad and underwear duo which keep moisture away from the body and last up to five years. Project Dignity distributed 65,000 Subz to South African students. The founders also provide education about hygiene, menstruation and HIV.

Like Project Dignity, Qrate Za educates young women about menstruation. In 2018, its founder, Candice Chirwa started creating resources for parents and teachers to educate their children about menstruation. She now conducts workshops to show hundreds of girls how to speak openly about their periods, effectively reducing the stigma surrounding periods. This is an important step in creating a conversation about period poverty in South Africa.

Looking Ahead

Each of these organizations has brought South Africa a step closer to ending period poverty, whether it is through ending the added tax, creating a sustainable sanitary product or educating about menstruation. This work is a pillar in bringing women and girls in South Africa a sustainable lifestyle where their periods do not have to put their health or education at risk.

– Sana Mamtaney
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty Challenges Period poverty challenges women worldwide because many women cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. Whether in the United States, Ireland, Great Britain or South Africa, many women struggle with period poverty and need resources to properly manage their menstruation.

Period Poverty Challenges in Africa

According to ActionAid, one in 10 girls in Africa do not attend school because they lack access to menstrual products or private hygiene facilities at school. Moreover, 50% of schoolgirls in Kenya do not have access to menstrual products. In addition, community stigmas and taboos about menstruation lead to girls experiencing emotional and mental problems. Girls and women in these situations often feel the need to hide their periods because of the shame associated with menstruation. Understanding the anthropological impacts and possible solutions to period poverty reveals beneficial changes that could help women.

Anthropological Perspective

According to the anthropological perspective of menstruation, menstruation is the biological experience of young girls that notifies them of their body’s transition to womanhood. In a world with more than 300 million women menstruating per day, menstruation is still not openly discussed. In places where menstruation is considered taboo or dirty, women tend to have negative perceptions of themselves. This encourages secrecy and shame. Research suggests that menstruation as a topic of private discussion is universal. Women and girls are expected to deal with their menstruation in silence and invisibility.

Period Poverty Interventions

Sophia Bay, researcher of “Moving Toward a Holistic Menstrual Hygiene Management: An Anthropological Analysis of Menstruation and Practices in Western and Non-Western Societies,” proposes interventions that go beyond the issue of accessing menstrual products. Bay addresses the social stigma and shame as well. The first intervention recognizes the issue of access to menstrual products and the second addresses efforts to destigmatize the topic of menstruation.

When girls in lower-income areas have access to period products regularly, their risk of anxiety and fear is drastically reduced. Additionally, access to sanitation such as handwashing facilities and clean toilets is important to improve hygiene. Increasing privacy is also vital to sanitation as this will prevent young girls from improperly discarding used menstrual products. Lastly, puberty education needs to be prioritized. Many women do not know enough about menstruation. A lack of education about biological changes negatively impacts how girls see themselves and menstruation.

Qrate Workshops

Individuals and organizations are working to change the stigma surrounding periods and address period poverty challenges. Candice Chirwa, the founder of the organization Qrate, currently works with communities in parts of South Africa to educate people about menstruation. She is a passionate menstruation activist, speaker and scholar who uses artistic techniques to encourage conversation about periods and period poverty. Visual art, dancing and acting offer an opportunity for communities to discuss a usually challenging topic in a light-hearted way.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Chirwa explains that the girls play games to become more confident in themselves during the workshops. For example, one of these games requires the girls to pretend to explain different menstrual products to an alien. This helps them learn more about the products and become more comfortable talking about menstruation. Chirwa explains that the game also lets her know whether the girls are gaining the menstrual knowledge they need.

Ending Period Poverty

Facilitating workshops for young girls in South Africa has shown promise. Furthermore, understanding period poverty from an anthropological perspective offers explanations for the negative cultural stigma around periods. Using the work of researchers, making period products accessible, ensuring menstrual education and taking action to combat the stigma work hand-in-hand to alleviate period poverty.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Health in NamibiaOn March 17, 2021, Namibia made the decision to no longer tax menstrual products beginning in the 2022-23 financial year. Currently, these products are taxed 15%, which makes it difficult for many to afford these essential items. The removal of this tax is an important change wherever it takes place. It is especially significant in places like Namibia where 73% of households do not even have adequate handwashing facilities. The tax elimination will not fix all issues related to the inaccessibility of menstrual products, however, it is a major step toward improving menstrual health in Namibia.

The Cycle of Period Poverty

Menstrual health is vital to one’s overall health. Globally, one in five girls misses school due to limited access to menstrual products. This means girls are missing up to one week of school every month. Consequently, students may find it difficult to keep up with their classmates and succeed in school. As getting an education is one of the most effective ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty, this puts girls at an even greater disadvantage and maintains the cycle of poverty.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as period poverty. Period poverty is an unfortunate reality in Namibia and across the world. The goal of eliminating tampon tax and increasing the availability of menstrual products is to ensure no one misses opportunities simply because they are menstruating. Moreover, no one deserves to have to choose between buying sanitary products or buying food. Furthermore, no one should have to miss work or school simply because they cannot afford menstrual products. Making these products more easily available will reduce poverty and improve menstrual health in Namibia and around the world.

Women resort to alternatives such as rags, paper towels or old pads when they do not have access to menstrual products. The use of these items puts girls at risk of infections. The inaccessibility of sanitary products has also been linked with poor mental health and overall distress. These effects are easily preventable when menstrual products become accessible.

Menstrual Stigma

Many people do not consider menstrual health when trying to improve overall health. In many parts of the world, menstruation is considered unclean and shameful. This prevents many women from participating in society while menstruating. Access to menstrual products, like any other products that improve sanitation and health, is a human right. Regulations removing menstrual tax make these products more affordable and accessible. The removal of tampon tax will not take away the stigma surrounding menstruation, however, it will help protect people from disease, improve mental health and ease the completion of daily tasks while menstruating.

Namibia’s deputy minister in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Emma Theofelus, states, “Period poverty is one of the undignifying processes women and young ladies have to experience. Your period is such a natural process and not something they can opt out of. There are not enough social and economic circumstances to create safety for young women.” Since menstruation is a natural experience for nearly half of the population, equitable access to sanitary products should not be negotiable.

Addressing Period Poverty Globally

Namibia is not the first country to eliminate tampon tax, countries such as Kenya, India, Australia and South Africa have also done so. Other countries, such as Germany, have decreased the amount of tax. However, in most of the world, including most U.S. states, these essential items are still taxed, which makes menstrual products unavailable to many. The state of menstrual health in Namibia is sure to improve now that tampon tax is done away with. The rest of the world should look to Namibia as an example and make similar changes. Every girl and woman deserves to menstruate with dignity and Namibia is one step closer to making this a reality.

Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Zimbabwe
Poverty stretches beyond lack of food and water, as period poverty is one of the biggest challenges Zimbabwean women face. With more than 3 million girls in Zimbabwe menstruating, there is high demand for feminine products. Those most likely to experience period poverty in Zimbabwe are underprivileged girls whose parents or guardians cannot afford to buy tampons, pads or menstrual cups. A lack of access to feminine products results in the unhygienic use of rags and cow dung. This not only affects the girls’ health but also strips them of confidence and dignity.

Many girls in Zimbabwe are at risk of developing infections and suffering the embarrassment of leakages and discomfort. Sanitary products are overpriced, so families have to choose between purchasing feminine products or buying food, with most settling on the latter. As a result, period poverty in Zimbabwe has risen to unimaginable heights and incited the government and many nonprofit organizations to work tirelessly to mitigate this problem.

7 Facts About Period Poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Clean period underwear for girls and women in Zimbabwe is in high demand. Many homeless and rural girls do not own a pair of underwear, and underwear is very expensive to buy. The price of underwear is very high, and many consider it a luxury to own a clean pair. Individual projects and nonprofit organizations, like Hope for a Child in Christ, try to meet some of these needs, but the demand remains high.
  2. Some girls and women experience menstrual cramps and also require pain relievers. However, many pharmacies sell their medication in foreign currency that is inaccessible to the majority of low-income families. Some girls resort to unhealthy solutions, such as sniffing glue, to intoxicate themselves and relieve the pain of period cramps. This causes many to end up addicted to these inhalants that result in long-term effects like nulling brain function and heart failure.
  3. Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has severely damaged the country’s economic potential. Basic needs like food and water are scarce which significantly lowers the standard of living. Girls and women must eat healthily and wash, especially during their menstrual cycle. However, some have little to no access to clean water, most commonly in rural areas, so they risk getting yeast infections and other health issues.
  4. There is also a lack of female-friendly toilets. Privacy is an issue, with some toilet cubicles having no doors or sanitary bins, which results in the girls throwing their sanitary wear on the floor or flushing it down the toilet. This increases the risk of diseases developing in various communities and harms the environment. Local ministers have sought funding from the government and work with nonprofit organizations, like Dutch, to build more female-friendly public toilets at schools and shopping centers.
  5. A study by SNV Zimbabwe states that 72% of menstruating schoolgirls do not use sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. Sanitary wear production is low in Zimbabwe, so the women rely on the importation of the products. Many women activists have voiced their concerns in the hope to raise awareness and shift the government’s mind to provide young women and girls sanitary wear at a more affordable price or better yet, at no cost at all. In December 2018, the government removed the value-added tax, which lowered the price of sanitary wear.
  6. With period poverty comes a plethora of other problems, including period shaming and bullying. When young girls and women resort to the use of rags and other unsustainable solutions with little absorbency, leakages occur and stain the young girls’ clothing or school uniform. Girls are then embarrassed and fear being around certain family members and peers. This disadvantages their education and mental well-being. As a result, many talented young girls give up their dreams and settle for early child marriages.
  7. Education about menstrual hygiene and how to use different sanitary products is a requirement for girls. Volunteer teachers and nonprofit organizations, like Talia Women’s Network, make an effort to close the period poverty gap by providing workshops and demonstrations on how a girl should care for herself during her cycle.

A conducive environment is a requirement for young girls and women. An environment where period stigmatization is low to nonexistent gives girls a better chance to be confident and driven. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make reducing period poverty in Zimbabwe a priority.

Pamela Patsanza
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in new ZealandOn February 18, 2021, New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and associate education minister, Jan Tinetti, announced that all schools in New Zealand will offer free menstrual products starting in June 2021, expanding on a pilot program that started in 2020. This announcement aligns with the country’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and is a major step toward eliminating the barriers created by period poverty in New Zealand.

Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy

The New Zealand government’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) launched the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy on August 29, 2019, with the vision of New Zealand becoming “the best place in the world for children and young people” to reach their full potential.

The six expected outcomes of this strategy are for children and young people to feel loved and safe, meet their material needs, be physically and mentally healthy, have access to education, receive acceptance for who they are and develop a sense of autonomy. These outcomes stem from the principle that children and young people are intrinsically valuable human beings with rights that must be respected. Furthermore, individuals and communities should act together as early as possible to promote the multifaceted well-being of children and young people.

Addressing Period Poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand’s free menstrual product program in schools aligns with the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy because period poverty is a significant barrier to a young person’s education. Prime Minister Ardern points to research showing that approximately one in 12 young people in New Zealand miss school because of being unable to manage their menstruation. Tinetti notes that many students who have their period while in school face embarrassment, stigma and discomfort and risk missing classes or not having the proper menstrual hygiene products.

Research from the New Zealand charity, KidsCan, found that up to 20,000 students at the primary, intermediate and secondary levels were at risk of period poverty. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights and exacerbates challenges associated with period poverty, including the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure and inadequate access to menstrual education as well as disrupted access to menstrual products.

The government’s new program expands on a pilot program that started in 2020 in which the government provided free menstrual products to more than 3,000 students in 15 schools in the Waikato region, located in northern New Zealand. Government officials used the feedback from the successful pilot program to inform its approach, with Tinetti noting that students wanted more information about the different kinds of menstrual products and how to manage their periods.

Other Period Poverty Programs

Private sector initiatives are also responding to period poverty in New Zealand by providing free menstrual products. For example, The Warehouse, one of the largest retailers in New Zealand, partnered with The Period Place to set up menstrual product donation boxes in several of its locations and provide free menstrual products in its store restrooms.

The Period Place is a New Zealand-based advocacy group whose vision is for New Zealand to be the first country to achieve period equity by 2030 in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Positive Periods is a coalition of 25 period poverty advocacy groups in New Zealand that advocate for the provision of free menstrual products in schools. In 2019, it released a discussion paper highlighting period poverty in New Zealand and its effect on educational outcomes. It also circulated a petition calling for free menstrual products in schools, which received more than 3,000 signatures.

The Road Ahead

Period poverty in New Zealand is an issue that affects the health and well-being of thousands of girls and women. The government’s free menstrual product program in schools is an important step toward ensuring that all girls and women can pursue an education and manage their menstruation with dignity.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Job Opportunities in the Poorest Nations
Creating job opportunities in the poorest nations of the world is key to development while also being a significant challenge for the world. With unemployment ranging as high as over 20% in some low-income and developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest unemployment recorded – companies and businesses around the world have been striving to increase human capital through working locally and providing employment opportunities onsite. Here is a list of four businesses creating jobs in the world’s poorest nations.

Because International

With its commitment to using production as a means of breaking “the negative cycle of poverty by creating opportunity for real, measurable, long-term economic growth,” Because International’s business model centers around the idea of aiding entrepreneurs through production. Its main product, The Shoe That Grows, is a long-lasting, expandable shoe designed for children in low-income countries. The company hires in areas that need the product the most. Local production helps sustainability and other benefits, from reduced carbon footprint and lower shipping costs to job creation.

The company has thus far created jobs on two production sites. The Umoja Company site in Kenya works on The Shoe That Grows for local markets. The Anbessa Shoe Share company, in Ethiopia, supplies shoes for international brands such as J.Crew and D.S.W. Additionally, Because International runs the Pursuit Incubator, an online support program where entrepreneurs living in poverty can gain relevant training and coaching, as well as get funding and develop their network. The Incubator has so far helped several start-ups based in Africa. Among them are Reform Africa, which makes bags from recycled plastic, Our Roots Africa, which produces plant-based and biodegradable straws and SoaPen, which provides hand soap pens for kids in low-hygiene areas.

Wonderbag

A Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that allows food to cook for up to 12 hours without any additional heating. The product preserves heat and aids the cooking process. It is an easy-to-use foam insulated bag that wraps around cooking pans. This way of slow-cooking minimizes health issues by obviating the use of wood, charcoal and fuels in cooking. This common way of cooking in low-income areas is a health risk. The product also saves 13,000 hours per year. Because of this, women have more time to develop other skills. This provides an opportunity for women and girls to increase their earning potential and autonomy. As Kirsten Fenton, Wonderbag’s representative, told The Borgen Project, “Communities and their people lie at the heart of Wonderbag’s purpose.”

The company works with partnering factories and sewing collectives to provide local women with paid employment opportunities. Through organized training, teaching and guidance, Wonderbag has created community employment in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and soon Brazil. “These employment projects have been run with the support of co-operatives… [and] single mothers manufacturing Wonderbags from their home.”

MakaPads

MakaPads is an Uganda-based business producing naturally absorbent and biodegradable sanitary pads from local papyrus and paper waste. Its aim is to reduce period poverty and make sanitary products widely available for women and girls in developing countries. Its  motto is “Let’s ensure every girl has access to and can afford to buy sanitary pads.”

The company currently operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The average income in these countries is less than $1.25/month, yet a packet of period pads costs twice that. This inequity pushes women to use riskier products such as cloth rags, waste paper or banana leaves.

MakaPads provides training to those who wish to produce the pads themselves. CEO Nnassuuna Mirembe told The Borgen Project, “MakaPads are a Menstrual Hygiene Management product that is proudly made by over 90% women using resources from within the communities.”

The company has so far taught and employed over 200 women and men. “Maka also means home, which means several girls and women can stay at home, take care of the house chores but also make portions of the sanitary pads which they sell to the company and are paid a unit rate for each product,” explained Mirembe. This is possible due to the use of materials grown locally. These materials are easily and widely available, allowing the trained manufacturers to work from their homes and not have to bear any additional income.

One Dollar Glasses

One Dollar Glasses is a pioneering organization that produces optical glasses for those in need. The glasses are a revolutionary design. A single steel wire is the only necessary material. Additionally, the manufacturing process does not require any electricity, involves only one bending machine and costs $1 per pair. Considering how easy and accessible the production process is, the organization has managed to create more than 200 jobs in eight operating countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar and Peru – through financing relevant training and providing bending machines to those seeking employment. One Dollar Glasses also organizes its Best Spherical Correction Training to help trainees learn how to conduct eye tests and adjust glasses on patients.

These four companies have found innovative ways to create job opportunities in the poorest nations. They use sustainable techniques and are contributing to ending global poverty. Providing job opportunities in the poorest nations uplifts the entirety of the global economy. To do so in a sustainable, futuristic way is truly an accomplishment for these brands.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

Lolo Cynthia
Period poverty means a woman or girl is unable to afford period products. In the African continent, more than 800 million women and girls menstruate each day, but 500 million of those women do not have access to sanitary pads. As a result, in some places in the world, girls manage their periods with used rags, sand, tree bark and other unsanitary practices, leading to reproductive or urinary tract infections. This issue is prevalent in Nigeria as well, although public health specialist Lolo Cynthia is making a difference by providing health education to girls and helping them make their own cloth pads.

Period Poverty in Nigeria

Period poverty is a global issue that greatly impacts women in Nigeria, where women receive heavy taxes on menstrual products. A pack of sanitary pads costs $1.30. However, 44% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty and earn less than $1.90 per day. Inability to pay for sanitary pads places strain on finances and the physical and mental health of Nigerian women. This, in turn, leads to high anxiety and stress during menstruation.

Period Poverty in Nigerian Schools

According to the United Nations Children Fund, many schoolgirls in Nigeria view menstruation as a secretive and shameful experience. They associate it with experiencing anxiety, abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting, impacting their school work. One in 10 girls in Nigeria miss school due to their periods, and Nigeria’s conservative approach to menstruation discourages conversations about improving this issue.

Lolo Cynthia

A public health specialist named Lolo Cynthia, who taught 250 girls in southwest Nigeria how to make their own reusable menstrual pads from linens and cloth at a summer camp, is combatting the issue. Lolo Cynthia was born and raised in Lagos and later moved to South Africa to continue her studies. She earned degrees from Monash University at the age of 19 in public health and sciences and HIV/AIDS and health management. Lolo then worked at Nigeria’s Rave TV, where she discussed politics and lifestyles. Later, she worked on a documentary focusing on street children’s lives, drug abuse and other issues impacting women in Nigeria.

Lolo always had a passion for sexual health and social inequality, and she reveals these passions through her work on LoloTalks and MyBodyIsMine. Lolo’s efforts, which receive support from the first lady of Nigeria’s Ondo state Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, allow her to work with LoloTalks to discuss menstruation and sexual health. While she was hosting her podcast and working on LoloTalks and education program, MyBodyIsMine, she also started the NoDayOff campaign. It distributed 1,000 pads to women and girls in Lagos. Through this campaign, she quickly realized the need for a more sustainable option for women to use during menstruation. Lolo’s eco-friendly pads create an opportunity for women to control their periods and sexual health sustainably.

Benefits of Cloth Pads

Nigerian girls learning the skills to make their own pads can benefit their sexual health. Moreover, it can help them prepare for menstruation every month. The benefits of pads are:

  1. They are Affordable: Using cloth pads is very beneficial, especially when fighting against period poverty. Cloth pads are more affordable and can last for up to five years or longer than other types of pads and menstrual products.
  2. Cloth Pads are Better for the Body: Most disposable pads comprise harmful chemicals. These chemicals can negatively impact the sensitive area of the body where women place them. Cloth pads involve safe material that is chemical-free.
  3. Cloth Pads Increase Preparation: Using cloth pads also guarantees that women are ready for their cycle. Additionally, it reduces the chances that women and girls will reuse pads and tampons, which can pose health risks.

Lolo Cynthia’s work has received global recognition and may have an impact on how Nigeria approaches women’s bodies and health. The fight to reduce period poverty in Nigeria is only beginning.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr