Today, more than 1 million adolescent girls throughout Kenya regularly miss school or drop out entirely because they don’t have access to sanitary pads. Megan White Mukuria, an American transplant to Nairobi, sees menstrual health management—and its connection to education, empowerment, and overall health—as essential to young women’s flourishing.
When girls do not understand the still-taboo subjects of puberty, sexuality, and reproductive health, they become susceptible to disease, unplanned pregnancies, forced early marriage, or female circumcision—any of which could derail their education and participation in society.
In 2008, Mukuria cofounded the business ZanaAfrica to address this need. With its own line of affordable sanitary pads, the organization will reach 70,000 girls in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan by the end of 2016.
When Mukuria started ZanaAfrica, she says, she told God, “If you want this for the women of East Africa, I’ll do it. But this is yours, not mine.” This perspective has been invaluable as Mukuria’s team continues to innovate. “We don’t hold things as tightly. The end goal is a woman who is in her own driver’s seat. Everything else is malleable.”
She has been an Ashoka Fellow, a PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, and was featured in Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women.