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Menstrual Hygiene Kits for Girls in Kenya

Our initiative to help girls in Kenya have dignity during their period is very important to us and to our clients. It was Catherine’s idea (co-founder and COO). She is usually out in the field creating rapport with the artisan community and coordinating Sawa Sawa’s efforts. She saw the need and the dire consequences that came with period poverty.

When a girl in the village has her period, she misses a week of school. She cannot compete with the boys and most can’t keep up. She eventually drops out of school and becomes another mouth to feed. Her parents marry her off in her teens in exchange of dowry. She has children long before she is ready with a man who views her as property. She does not have access to good health care or choices for her life. She gets stuck in a poverty trap and is an old woman before she is thirty. The cycle repeats itself when she has a daughter.

With our #endperiodpoverty initiative, she is able to stay in school longer, grow up physically, emotionally and mentally. She gets to choose what happens to her. She escapes the trauma of period taboo and shame. If she chooses to have a daughter, she will have a healthier life and contribute to her community. Educating a girl and helping her stay in school solves most economic and health problems affecting Kenyan women.

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Ethical Fashion!

What is ethical fashion? There are a lot of ways of explaining what’s ethical about fashion. At Sawa Sawa Collection, our products are handmade by women in Kenya using locally sourced natural fibers, beads and leather. The artisans gain a fair, above market price for the products that allows them to live a sustainable, dignified life. The proceeds go back into the community via empowerment programs and menstrual kits for the girls to help them stay in school.

Ethical = How it’s made + who makes it + sustainable, fair wages + materials used + how they are sourced + where it is made + conscious community impact.

#wearyourvalues #sustainablefashion #consciousfashion #ethicalfashion #slowfashion #fairfashion

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Ngong’ Artisans

Ngong’ is a beautiful little town on the Great rift valley. It is known for its beautiful hills that overlook the rift valley views on one side and a national wildlife park on another. It is also the place ‘Out of Africa’ was filmed.

Leah Selei: Matriarch of the Ngong’ artisans pictured with our co-founder.

The artisans are women who live one with nature. They are comprised of mothers and grandmothers who enjoy beading as a rite of passage. They use their skill to make accessories. Through our partnership they are able to make a living to provide basic needs, education and medicine to their families.

Leah and her group can be found at the market in Ngong’ and Nairobi selling some of the accessories.

Kate loves to meet with Leah and spend time listening and learning how we can best serve them.

Thank you for supporting our work and our partnership with the artisan women.

Shop our collection. Donate through PayPal at the bottom of the page ūüôā

Contact us to carry our collection. Send us any questions, comments or advice.

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Lookbook – Handcrafted sandals

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Lookbook – Handmade Earrings

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Keep Girls in School – End Period Poverty.

CONCEPT PAPER: SAWA SAWA COLLECTION

Introduction

Education is essential in developing a generation of girls that will become empowered women.  Keeping girls in school consistently gives them a fighting chance at having opportunities equal to those of boys in the same environment. Adolescent girls in rural Kenya miss an average of one week of school every month to remain at home during menstruation.  According to action aid, over 50% of these girls cannot afford sanitary pads that would allow them to attend school during their menses.  Most of these girls end up dropping out of school before they earn a diploma.  Shame and stigma prevent the girls from speaking out openly about their needs and asking for help.  The BBC reported that a girl committed suicide in 2019 after being shamed by a teacher in front of her peers at school.   The constant fight with nature and cultural humiliation strips girls of their self-esteem, courage and the life choices that come with getting an education. There is a direct correlation between menstruation shaming and continued abject poverty in rural Kenya.

In our efforts to empower artisan women in rural Kenya, we have found that mental freedom is essential.  Most of these women are already in the poverty trap and cannot imagine there could be a way out.  With this realization, we empower adolescent girls to see their potential and the opportunities that life can offer, helping them dream of a better world and their place in it.  We achieve this by providing for their sanitary hygiene needs, and educating both girls and boys about the natural process of menstruation.  We seek to end shame and stigma and keep girls where they need to be to succeed.

 

Problem statement

Education and development should not be hindered by the natural process of menstruation.

Period poverty is a major issue facing adolescent girls in Kenya.  Adolescent girls lack effective, affordable, hygienic and sustainable solutions for dealing with menstruation.  Most girls miss school or drop out entirely to avoid the public while on their period.  Cultural taboos and the stigma associated with menstruation make girls mortified and ashamed by this natural process.

Without help, many girls do not complete their education.  They are married off at an early age and have children early.  They lose any chance of escaping poverty or fulfilling their potential.  They do not contribute to their communities or economy.  They are condemned to a life of strife and economic reliance, as are their children.

Our team provides the young women of rural Kenya with a proper understanding of the changes happening to their bodies.  We educate them on menstrual hygiene, and encourage them to strive to be women of substance. We provide them with pads, underwear, and toiletries.

 

Justification Statement

Menstruation kits should not be a privilege of the rich and urban. ¬†Menstruation is a natural process should be celebrated and its understanding should be encouraged and supported. ¬†According to the most recent Kenyan census report, 50.1% of the population is female, and 72% live in rural areas susceptible to poverty. ¬†Most of the population is young ‚Äď the United Nations lists the median age in Kenya as 19. ¬†Funding programs that will encourage girls to become educated, join the workforce and contribute to the economy will raise the country out of poverty. ¬†Lifting the burden of menstrual shaming and misunderstanding from girls‚Äô shoulders will free their minds to learn and become curious about life‚Äôs possibilities. ¬†Adolescent girls should not be exposed to the vulnerabilities that come with desperation. ¬†Our program seeks to intervene menstrual shame in the villages where our artisans reside. ¬†We work with local schools that serve as a center of community and gathering. ¬†The program is of service to girls in Oloitoktok and Maasai Mara. ¬†We will serve additional artisan villages as our program expands.

 

Theory of Change

By eliminating the stigma and shame of menstruation, we will improve the quality of life for the girls of rural Kenya and their families.  Without shame girls will stay in school and receive a consistent education that will allow them to compete with boys on equal terms.  The girls will be healthier mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and physically.  They will be happier and willing to engage in co-curricular activities.  They will learn in their areas of interest and discover their gifts and talents, which will lead to them becoming passionate about life and their path to adulthood.  They will work harder to achieve that which they aspire to be.  They will have choices Рwhether to pursue traditional, career or hybrid roles.  They will choose spouses in their own time and have children later in life when they are established and can afford better healthcare.  They will not be bound by negative culture and the men that would control them. The girls that stay in school will become the women that will bring light into their communities. They will be better mothers, wives, teachers, doctors, and engineers. By keeping the girls of rural Kenya in school, we will dismantle one of the primary causes of the cycle of poverty and dependence.

 

Goals

To ensure that the daughters of our artisans have a better life than the generation of women before them.  They will have the freedom that comes with education.  They will improve upon that which their mothers have built. They will be innovative, creative, and empowered.  They will be armed with knowledge and choices.  Our goal is a healthy, happy, educated generation of girls.

 

Output

Our mission is to empower artisan women in rural Kenya to earn a sustainable income through skills passed down through generations.  We provide the tools and materials to create, buy their handmade products at a price that gives them an income that exceeds a living wage, and use the revenues from our sales to fund programs that improve the quality of life for the women and their families.  Through empathetic listening and spending time with these women, we have gained an understanding of the unique challenges faced by them as individuals, and by their communities and villages.  As a result, we have launched this initiative to help our artisan women and their daughters become educated and independent.

 

Outcome

Women and girls in our artisan communities come from deeply patriarchal cultures.  The women in Maasai tribes are owned by their fathers and later by their husbands. They are responsible for all the chores in the home including building houses, raising children, caring for livestock, cooking, cleaning, fetching water, and more.  Girls are often married off into polygamous families as young as at the time of their first menstruation.

By relieving girls of cultural menstrual shaming and keeping them in school, we save them from a myriad of problems associated with patriarchy and cyclic poverty.  The girls participate in more activities at school, at home, and in their community.  They are free to enjoy their youth and the activities that allow them to develop mentally and physically.

Ending menstrual shame allows teachers, mothers and daughters to talk openly about reproduction.  Boys learn to be supportive of girls in class and their sisters during this time and to be sensitive and understanding of the symptoms that accompany the process.  These boys will grow into men that are more compassionate toward the women in their lives and get more involved in decisions involving their women partners and their reproductive health.

Our outcome creates an environment in which girls learn about and accept their bodies and are able to cope with their periods without shame.  We educate boys to learn and talk openly about menstruation and give them an understanding of their role in being supportive and kind.  We encourage teachers to help girls to be comfortable in their classrooms and to avoid humiliating them and perpetuating stigma.  Our outcome gets the whole community ready to be a part of ending period poverty by talking about it, asking questions, and expressing concerns and ideas.

 

Activities

– Coordinate with local village schools and local women groups at the beginning of the school term

– Arrive at the village, settle down, rest, freshen up, and prepare for the following day

РSpend an hour with the local teachers and student board.  Create a rapport

– Talk to the students as a group following a pre-agreed curriculum

РTalk to the girls alone.  Safe space time to ask any questions and speak freely

– Distribute gift bags to the girls that includes their menstrual kit

– Talk to the boys alone, hear their comments, answer questions, talk about safe sex etc.

– Share ‚Äėtea‚Äô with the students, giving them time to approach us individually if they need to talk, report abuse at home, etc.

– Bring additional supply boxes of pads to the principal for the girls to receive during the term on an as-needed basis

– Spend some time over a cup of tea with the artisan women ‚Äď mothers of the girls ‚Äď to hear their needs and answer any questions

– Spend a day in the local community with villagers to learn of additional ways in which we can be of service to the girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Unclean Woman.

I was reading blog posts to understand our artisan women in rural Kenya better when I came across something very interesting. The women in some tribal cultures in Kenya are considered unclean during their menses. For one week a month, they are shunned from their families and the community.

Most women are in a polygamous marriage. They have no access to contraception therefore have large families. They are responsible for making the huts for shelter, fetching water, cooking and cleaning, milking the cows, gathering firewood for light and warmth. The man’s role is to observe and advice. These women are overworked and underappreciated. If you have spent time in rural Kenya with the communities, you will know. If you haven’t, you should come along on my next trip.

When you spend time with them, you will realize how happy, kind and content they are. They are very grateful for every light in their life, they find happiness in simplicity. There is joy in their life – actual, authentic joy. They sing with peace in their soul. When they come together in their beading circles, they teach you about friendship and being neighborly. How can they be this unburdened with everything they face in their daily lives?

When I first read about the unclean week, I thought how unfair, how sad, don’t these people see how hard these women work, how can I change this, how can I help? Then I got the A-huh moment. Every month these women get a week off, they found a way to detach themselves and take a vacation. For one week, they don’t cook, clean, build huts, fetch water or care for their families. They don’t have to please their husbands or compete with the new young wife. They sleep in, relax, make themselves a meal and get a well deserved break. How clever.

I live in the ‘modern world’. We have cars, microwaves and supportive husbands. We have all the material things to make our lives easier and happier. Every day the modern mother cleans the house, cooks for the family, drives the kids to school, soccer practice, play dates, shops for food, reads the children to sleep and more. She gets an hour – maybe –¬† to relax before going to bed. When that time of the month comes around, she shoots a cotton bullet up her hoo-ha and shows up. The modern mom does not get a day off. Studies show most mothers feel inadequate, they feel guilty for staying home with the children and not bringing home an income or for working and not spending time with the children. Maybe the unclean concept was invented by a woman who found a way to make the men think it was their idea!

Most mothers no matter where they are on the planet, give everything they are to their families. It is in their nature to nurture. It got me thinking about the unclean woman program. What if we could make the unclean week a wonderful, magical time. What if we could help the African woman feel loved, appreciated, pampered, clean and feminine. What if she could feel like she is on vacation, come out of it feeling happy, relaxed, recharged and ready to face another 3 weeks. What if it was a time to look forward to?

I thought of having a care package the women could pick up on their way to the bleeding hut. If it were me, I would want some clean underwear, sanitary stuff, nice smelling soap, lotion, pain killers, chocolate, food and beverage and some beading materials. This program is no where near a priority, it will be on the shelf until other more dire issues are fixed. I love it though and I am sure I’ll love seeing it into fruition. If you could imagine a care package for a menstruating woman in rural Africa, what would you want in it? What would you want in yours? What other ideas do you have?