By Joanna Prisco, for Global Citizen
Periods will always be a drag. But they should never impact a young woman’s ability to succeed in school.
Unfortunately, due to inadequate hygiene education and limited access to personal products, girls in rural areas around the world often rely on found items ranging from scraps of clothing to mud, leaves or animal skins to manage their menstrual flow — often forcing them to stay home from school due to social stigma and embarrassment.
Having experienced this issue firsthand growing up, Nigerian philanthropist and entrepreneur Folasade Bamisaye recently launched a startup to help prevent young women in her country from missing classes due to lack of proper hygiene products: MYperiodKIT.
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“I missed a lot of classes, a lot of lectures, and it interfered with my academic performance," Bamisaye told Mashable. "Visiting schools as part of my job brought me back into the community and … I met people going through the same situation as me over 20 years ago. I thought: 'I need to do something.'"
MYperiodKIT provides girls with menstrual hygiene kits, including sanitary pads, tissue wipes, pantyliners, and disposable bags — all at an affordable cost — with the goal of keeping young girls in school. For those living in regions with limited access to running water, MYperiodKIT has even developed a sustainable, disposable sanitary pad made from banana and plantain stem fibre called “GreenPads.”
Profits from sales of the MYperiodKITs and GreenPads are reinvested in the program so that disadvantaged females who cannot afford the materials may also receive them “no matter your economic situation," Bamisaye explained to Mashable.
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“The justification for having MYperiodKIT is that girls and women residing in under-served areas around Nigeria are faced with huge challenge of coping with their menstrual period hygienically,” Bamisaye told She Leads Africa.
“Women and girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by factors including limited access to affordable hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options. This has led many girls and women to manage their periods ineffectively, uncomfortably and unhygienically.”
But by arming young women with these essential tools, she believes all of that can soon change.
Empowering youth is a recurring theme throughout Bamisaye’s career: In addition to launching MYperiodKIT, she is the the founder of Young Women Arise, an organization that educates young girls about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), and she is the curator of Ablaze Ladies Camp, which provides participants with the needed skills for them to make informed decision about their SRHR, according to She Leads Africa.
Her latest work creating MYperiodKIT is already receiving praise, and Bamisaye was recently selected as a finalist to represent Nigeria in the $1 million global startup competition Chivas Venture.
But such recognition would only serve her greater goal, she said, telling Mashable, "The startup means to me that we will have girls who will no longer have to drop out of school just because they cannot afford a necessity as basic as menstrual hygiene."