Written by Catherine Lewis Saenz
Kyla Graeser, OMS III, and Savannah Rosenbaum, OMS III, organized a fundraiser to purchase feminine hygiene products for women in Kenya. They were assisted by Christine Njihia, a local volunteer who works with vulnerable children, orphans, and girls rescued from child marriages and female genital mutilation.
This year’s drive differed from past years in that, rather than collecting one-time use products in the United States and then bringing them to Kenya, SDs Graeser and Rosenbaum created a GoFundMe that raised nearly $4,500 for the purchase of 800 reusable feminine hygiene kits. The kits, also known as Makini Pads, cost $5 each and were purchased from Kenya Works, a company that seeks to empower Kenyan women through multiple programs, including the Makini Pad Initiative.
With the help of Ms. Njihia, the Makini Pads were donated to young women residing in orphanages and rescue centers, the latter a place of refuge for girls who have survived the harmful cultural practices of female genital mutilation, child marriage, and beading (ritual rape). The Makini Pads were also donated to “schools and church groups that support these young women in their pursuit of a healthy life and access to education,” said SD Graeser.
A consideration when donating the feminine hygiene products was that the products needed to be culturally appropriate. Unlike pads, SD Graeser explained, tampons and menstrual cups would not be a good option for young Kenyan women who typically avoid pelvic exams as inserting objects into the vagina is simply not considered culturally normal. The Makini Pads offer a great solution in that they are reusable, easy to use, and culturally accepted.
The importance of such a large donation of the Makini Pads cannot be overstated. Without feminine hygiene products, Kenyan women have to resort to using dirty rags or pieces of blankets during their menses, putting them at risk of infection. The women are also shamed for having their period, forcing them to skip school, and fragmenting their education. “These products help liberate these young women from the negative stigma of their menses [and empowers] them to continue [their] education and [to continue] participating in their community,” said SD Graeser.