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Providing Sanitary pads through Ari (Sanitary Pad dispensers)to women and girls in Kakuma and Daadab Refugee camps

Restoring and protecting women's and girls' dignity by providing consistent and private access to single packed sanitary pad.

Photo of Munira Twahir

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What specific problem(s) are you trying to address?

In normal circumstances over 14 million women and girls in Kenya do not have access to sanitary pads. The problem is not with the supply as many organizations both local and international provide pads as a solution. The problem is distribution. Women and girls in rural Kenya in particular are far removed from traditional distribution. This case is worsened when there is conflict in their homes. Due to lack of availability and affordability women and girls are engaged in transactional sex, they are using unhygienic alternatives such as animal skin and most importantly they bleed their dignity away every month. The biggest contributor to all of this is a break in the last mile of distribution.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the problem(s) you are working to address?

How to mitigate risk of relying on donor funded distribution as initial entry to market and move towards the beneficiaries paying for it?At what price can we sell the solution and keep it sustainable with pure sales of pads without support of subsidies?

Explain Your Idea

My idea is to offer pads to women and girls anywhere, anytime. This means right at their door step. We do this by proving single packed pads through our vending machines called Ari. Where a woman and girl can access one pad or however many she wants stress free. We do this by incorporating a card access system where they do not have to pay to access them. We went to Mukuru slums in Nairobi to get feedback from them. We learned that there are women and girls who could not at all afford the 10KES we were asking for. Initially our machines were coin based operated. However, in communities like these we realized we needed partners who can pay for them. We then went to talk to GoK and other NGOs that deal with distribution of sanitary pads to girls specifically. We learnt that the problem is that there is no way of knowing if the sanitary pads are actually reaching the beneficiaries. Furthermore, when the girls' family are given in bulk for the whole year as is customary they will sell them for food and the problem will not be solved. So we came up with a solution for both users where for people who want to support girls in poverty areas or disaster and conflict areas we offer them an accountable solution and for the women and girls we offer them single purchasing option so they buy what they need at that time. As for abuse it came out as one of the major problems we have a access cap per individual after they have spent that they have no more access to sanitary pads for the month

Name the three most important ways that your idea will address your identified problem(s).

It offers privacy, accessibility and accountability. Our machines are installed ideally in women's washrooms. Here the women and girls have the privacy of changing and getting a fresh pad without anyone knowing. This restores their dignity. Because it is accessible women and girls do not have to go out of their way to look for a sanitary pad. The machines are accountable because with our systems we can track who is using them, when it is been used and even cases of abuse. This protects women and girls from cases where they can be exploited in order to use our services.

How is your idea unique?

Our machines are first to market in Kenya. Because of this we have had the opportunity to be molded by our consumers. Alternative distribution offer bulk sanitary pads to women and girls in refugee camps and then leave. This model is favored because of the cost of distribution. But, there is no accountability afterwards. This is worsened when in cases all the sanitary pads are left with the community leaders or elders. It leaves women and girls exposed to exploitation. Culturally women and especially girls would rather use alternatives than seek sanitary pads from the community elders.

What are some outstanding concerns or questions that you have regarding your idea?

The level of civic education needed for the women and girls to use them and to understand them. Also, how well will the uptake be once the machines are installed.

Who are your end users?

Women and girls in Refugee camps in Kenya and women and girls in poverty stricken areas. The customer profile will be true for both geographical locations. Women of menstruating age that is from 18- 49. These women have an income of $2 or less per day. They have responsibilities such as taking care of their families. They have children very close in age. They live in a one room establishment with their family. At times extended family also stays with them. She does casual work such as charcoal making, selling porridge or road side food. For the girls they are also of menstruating age 10-18years old.They miss out of school because of their periods. Realistically, our machines can reach hundred of thousands of women with the right systems.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Kenya

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Tell us more about the emergency setting that you intend to implement in

Kakuma refugee camp has 142,000 and Daadab there are 270,000 people as of 2017. There are 29,233 adolescents of which 40% are girls. There are 57,356 18-59 people of which 46.6% are girls. In Daadab there are 270,000 people will similar population percentage distribution. The biggest challenge is culture, because menstruation is not widely discussed also, rallying up everyone to get to the civic education and going through the bureaucratic systems as well could be a challenge.

What is your organization's name?

Inteco Kenya

Tell us more about you.

We are a limited social enterprise company that is seeking partnerships to design the actual distribution channel from supply to machines. We have a team of young passionate individuals who believe lack of sanitary pads should not a topic of discussion. The founder studied business. The business development manager studied international relations and we have a program manager who has studied as a community health worker. We have a big support system of engineers and marketers and advisors from across disciplines and backgrounds.

Organizational Characteristics

  • Women-led organization
  • Youth-led organization

What is the current scale of your proposed innovation?

  • Community - 1+ communities within 1 country

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • Yes, for more than a year.

Organization Location

We are registered and based in Nairobi, Kenya

What is your organizational status?

  • Registered for-profit company, including social enterprises.

What is the maturity of your innovation?

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: Completed a pilot and am ready / in process of expanding.

How has your idea changed based on feedback?

Talking to the girls in one of the places we had already set up to get their feedback was very productive. I got to understand the distribution and consistency of donor or government provided sanitary pads and the challenges they face. Some of the challenges I had assumed such as the interaction with the authority figure in change of the sanitary pads in the school and the girls will be a determining factor for the girls. That was affirmed when I spoke to the girls in the school. I had earlier stated that I did not get an organization that would answer my questions on the distribution challenges they faced. I managed to talk to one where again they validated they are many risk areas in the distribution model such as having an individual going to the field to distribute and stay they until they go through the procedure can be really costly to the organization. With the question OpenIDEO asked on vandalism it made the team go back and discuss the security issues surrounding the solution

Who will implement this idea?

The implementation's success is determined by a chain of partners.I will be the one leading and devoting my time in establishing the distribution channels to make it a reality. We will need the partnership of schools, places of worship, water points within the refugee camps they will provide us locations and basic security for the machines. ( these places have opening and closing times as well as an attendant or security personnel manning the place). We will heavily rely on UNHCR to help us get unique identification tags for the women. All these partners will be based in the refugee camps. We will have a staff of 3 working on this full time initially and eventually expand to have offices/storage spaces at the camps.

Using a human-centered design approach, you may uncover insights that lead to small or foundational changes to your organization’s existing strategy or processes in order to unlock the potential of your idea. How would your organization go about making such changes?

Before we sell the solution to a community we go and talk to authority figure. We learn the challenges they are facing and the success they would like to see for the area they are in. Based on that we will introduce our solution and come up with a proposal designed to solve the solutions our machines can solve. Afterwards we add more value to the community by offering sexual reproductive education to the adolescence in that area. We have a criteria to choose where to install: Number of fixed or foot traffic of women/girl population in the area of interest. We also check the washroom structure and layout to see where best to place the machine. The initial introduction is done by the business development manager and then I come to do the site visit with the technician.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Exposure to sexual acts or content without context. I met a 12 year old girl who was pregnant. She had engaged in sex, and it was not the first time. They are exposed to sexual harassment, prostitution and even transaction sex for survival. The benefactors are faced with the challenge of hiding their periods because in their culture menstruation is taboo, it's a biological function that is treated like a disease. Hence the benefactor will shy away from seeking assistance and rather deal with it through unhygienic means.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question you need to answer to get there?

IMPACT: By 2022, We aim to provide consistent access of sanitary pads to roughly 28,000 adolescent girls in both Daadab and Kakuma. That will roughly 90% uptake of the system. QUESTION: How can we use the machines as an introduction to sexual reproductive health conversation in an area where it still greatly a taboo topic? While considering the cultural pot within the refugee camps as well as make it a sustainable initiative where we move from heavily donor based to beneficiaries paying?

What is it that most attracted you to Amplify instead of a more traditional funding model?

I liked that there was the beneficiary/ end user at the center of it. I believe there is no point in creating a solution for individuals who do not want it or perceive not to want it. I firmly believe keeping my end user in mind helps iterate the idea best to their needs. The actual solution may not change i.e the physical machine but, it may be solving different problems for different demographics and I wanted to have those skills to be able to pick them up

Do you intend to implement your Amplify idea in refugee camps / temporary settlements?

  • We aim to implement our Amplify idea in support of displaced populations, but not in a refugee camp / temporary settlement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this idea together?

  • Between 1 and 2 years

How many of your organizations’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country you intend to implement your idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Under $50,000 USD

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support


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Hi Munira Twahir and Team!

An important reminder, Refinement Phase closes this Thursday, October 26 at 11:30pm PST.

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