Menarche is always overwhelming to every girl. This is because it’s a new life experience that onsets an identity in their life that would be felt at least every month for the next three decades or so. Such a life reality must be respected and supported for beginning their biological process towards maturity.

Unfortunately, 1.2 billion girls across the world lack access to sanitary pads on a continuous basis.  In India, only 12 percent of the total 355 million menstruating girls and women can afford sanitary pads while one out of every two schools going girls is able to access a sanitary pad when they hit puberty. It's like women and girls have been left with two options: to buy sanitary pads or else stand the risk of bleeding in public which is embarrassing.

But there are viable solutions to this gender-based social injustice that have worked well in countries like Kenya which have facilitated access to affordable sanitary pads that I have been part of during my volunteer experience at Kachok Women’s Group based in Western Kenya. The Kachok Women’s Group is an organization that rescues girls that have been sexually assaulted and at the same time offers homemade sanitary pads that can be recycled by girls and women from disadvantaged parts of Kisumu city.

The Kachok Women’s group had women tailors who had the unique skills of sewing sanitary pads out of cotton wool and some soft fabrics which they would buy for a total of 85 Dollars.

Having acquired the materials, the women tailors would make up to 300 well knitted sanitary pads which would go for half a dollar and can be recycled for six good months!  All the users had to do is simply wash and dry the sanitary pads with sunlight after every menstrual period. And yes, these homemade reusable pads are not only comfy, but they also pass the hygiene test and the business model used to make them is sustainable.

For a girl who is living in a slum where she has to pay up to one and a half dollars for a sanitary pad every month that is only usable for one menstrual flow, getting a reusable sanitary pad that goes for half a dollar that can be used for up to six months is a win-win situation.

During my time at Kachok Women Group, I also witnessed big companies and other non-for- profit initiatives that would visit the slum settlements in Kisumu and offer free sanitary pads which cost up to 5 Dollars for each young girl that they met. Remember such giveaways would only be available maybe once in a year. I only wished that all those well-wishers and other cooperates would embrace the need to let the beneficiaries of the course they are sponsoring to entirely involved in ideating and designing solutions.

Regardless of how needy the beneficiaries of a social course might be, they still possess the biggest experience of going through the social crisis that is of concern to society and as such,  they know where it pains most, therefore, it would be wise to seek their opinion when giving relief.

So, as the world seeks to attain Gender Equality and Reduced Inequalities as prescribed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals number 5 and 10 respectively, and as we head towards Agenda 2030 (which is less than 12 years from now) we must commit to the inclusivity of teenage girls and young women to be part of the ideating process.

This is achieved by ensuring that the solutions which are geared towards attaining menstrual hygiene come from the very people who experience menstrual periods: women and girls.

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