At WomenStrong International, we believe in the power of bold women and are inspired to share their accomplishments. Whether or not they are part of WomenStrong, these powerful changemakers turn challenges into innovations, share our belief in women and girls and deserve recognition for their achievements. This series spotlights the essential work #WomenStrongWarriors accomplish all over the world. We hope their stories inspire you, as well.
On a trip to Kenya in 1999, Megan White Mukuria had an epiphany.
A college student at Harvard, she had taken the summer to volunteer with Homeless Children International-Kenya (HCI-K). As she worked with and got to know formerly homeless girls transitioning into full-time school, Mukuria was impressed by the intelligence, energy and potential of these young women and quickly realized, as she told Harvard Magazine, that she easily “could have ended up in their position if we had been placed in each other’s shoes.” One of the facts that surprised her most was that sanitary pads are inaccessible for 65% of girls in Kenya. As a result, they stay home from school for up to 6 weeks each year, leading in many cases to their eventually dropping out and to lives of economic hardship and struggle.
Moved by the urgency of the issue, Mukuria established ZanaAfrica Foundation, an organization (named for the Kishwahili word for “tool”) that helps girls in Kenya stay in school and build better lives, just by listening to their questions and delivering answers in innovative, useful ways. Through this simple — yet visionary — model, ZanaAfrica has created informational comics for girls, reinvented textbooks as fun, colorful magazines and even established the first-ever brand of sanitary pads to feature an African woman. She also established the ZanaAfrica Group, a business entity that manufactures and distributes sanitary pads and that, as such, gives girls access to the critical supplies they need to stay in school. Zana says it now delivers pads, underwear and health education to 10,000 young women every month. And that is truly just the beginning for this inspiring organization.
In the video below, Mukuria explains why menstrual hygiene management is a global issue that needs a major reevaluation, how her organization is changing lives, and what’s at stake for the future, if society doesn’t address this critical issue. Her work with ZanaAfrica creates innovative ways to spread information, start conversations, and turn uncomfortable laughter into understanding of a natural process — all of which is at the core of WomenStrong’s “Empowering the Period” campaign.
Mukuria truly embodies what it means to be a #WomenStrongWarrior, and we’re delighted to spotlight the thoughtful, ingenious solutions she and her ZanaAfrica colleagues are discovering every day.
Everyone suffers in the absence of private sanitary facilities, but women and girls often suffer most. Today, it is clear that access to decent sanitation is a basic human right, as well as an absolute necessity in eradicating poverty.