A more reliable friend concept

  • Munira Twahir
  • 21 Jun 2018

I had a friend in University who was menstruating that particular day. It could have been morning or in the afternoon, it could have been Monday or Saturday. The particulars do not really matter. I remember standing at the cafeteria waiting on the line for lunch when she declared the invasion was happening. She asked us if we had a sanitary pad with us. Of course we did not. Not because we had not attained puberty but, like many others we used a “feeling” to gauge when our menstrual cycle would begin. Thus, we never carried a pad unless it was necessary. Why carry a pad when one was not menstruating?

Her anxiety and stress affected me that particular day. Not because it was a unique occurrence. Many women and girls have had a few shares of accident stories in their menstrual journeys. Our preliminary research showed that in that particular university 1 in 10 girls knew and were actively tracking their menstrual cycle. The others like I had said relied on their body to inform them. This method as you can imagine has many faults. Firstly, due external environmental changes in one’s cycle might change. Secondly, due different reactions to those said external environments might delay or accelerate when one experiences their menses. We have not even began to think about hormonal changes or imbalances that differ month to month. Thus, relying on a “feeling” is a risky endeavor.

The consequences of this is unexpected periods. Like what my friend experienced on that day. But, for some reason that day something deep in me asked why don’t we have sanitary pad dispensers in Kenya? In our preliminary research the 9 girls who were not tracking their cycle said they would use tissue as a buffer in between until they went home to use the supply that they had. It did not make economic sense to purchase an entire packet when one only need a couple at that time. Therefore, interventions such as having school canteens, vendors outside the school and even the school nurse providing sanitary pads were not effective.

The voice in me got louder. Why can’t we replicate the friend system? A system where a woman or girl in an emergency situation can go get a single pad without the whole world knowing that she is menstruating. Why can’t we have a system where it is more reliable than a friend but, with the same level of trust? The answer was simple, yes we could.

Inteco Kenya Ltd. was born from that answer. A simple concept that aims to replicate that friend in the emergency situations has grown to much more. Serving women and girls in formal and informal settlements. Women and girls in rural and urban areas now have an opportunity to access sanitary pads and thus, we are progressing to attaining menstrual health hygiene services inclusion for all women and girls in Kenya. We want to eradicate the barrier of physical or monetary access to sanitary pads so that sanitary pads once and for all become a right, a norm rather than a privilege.

Munira Twahir

Munira Twahir is the founder and Administrative Operations Manager.