Kenyan Students Make Eco-Friendly Sanitary Towels

Lucky Oluoch
6 Min Read

By: Lucky Oluoch

Globally, over 450 million people are unable to access fundamental menstrual products like sanitary towels and hygiene facilities. In Kenya, more than 70% of girls and women find it difficult to afford this. Owning a sanitary towel has now turned out to be a luxury for well-off families. Believe it or not, lack of access to these sanitary towels has contributed to so many school-going girls dropping out of school. As a nation that has enjoyed independence since 1963, this is disastrous – we can never be proud of this.

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As much as Kenya is among the countries without a “tampon tax”, we are still not yet there – many girls and women are still suffering. Due to difficulties in accessing feminine hygiene products, most resort to using what is readily available to them like mattresses, socks, and leaves and some even choose to recycle the used sanitary towels. All these pose health problems to these people. Some of the challenges that girls and women face include infections in their reproductive systems and the urinary tract. Talk of infertility, talk of hepatitis B, talk of thrush, and so on, all are detrimental to girls and women in our society.

Lack of these basic feminine hygiene products also contributes to psychological torture which to some extent may lead to depression. The shame that these girls and women suffer is so intense that they can hardly engage in any productive activity or even go about their normal duties just because of their menstrual hygiene and management.

However, these pads and tampons greatly affect the environment – when they are not well disposed of – as they end up taking a very long time to turn into microplastics after becoming landfills. In one way or another, they end up polluting the environment including the soil, water bodies, air, etc. The chemicals used in the manufacture of these hygienic products cause pollution to the groundwater, they lead to soil infertility which is so hazardous to human health.

It is because of this that some innovative students from St Pauls’s University decided to come up with eco-friendly sanitary towels, named ECO-BANA, made from banana fibers. Being that its raw materials are sourced from the environment, it makes it easier for these sanitary towels to decompose easily once they get disposed of, unlike normal pads and tampons.

The group of 5 (Lennox Omondi, Keylie Muthoni Ogola, Brian Ndung’u, Emanuel Omondi, and Dullah Ogutu) decided to come up with this brilliant idea so that they can help the girls and women in the society manage their menstrual hygiene. Another thing that stands out with this innovation is the fact that once the girls and women purchase them, they will not necessarily have to dispose of the sanitary towels since they are made in a way that you can wash and reuse them. This will greatly favor our school-going girls and women who are financially challenged.

The group has been feted on several occasions for its brilliant innovation and earned opportunities to participate in various international events with the On Campus Awards hosted at Strathmore University being the most recent.

The Oncampus Awards accorded the team an opportunity to network with participants from across the globe, learn and unwind thanks to the five-star hospitality befitting the champions! The three-day event was a beehive of activities including competitions among participants, showcasing of diverse heritages, a nature drive at the Nairobi National Park, picnics, team buildings, interviews, and after-party sessions.

This particular innovation has seen the team win a number of awards. On July 23rd, 2022, they represented Kenya in Boston for the GLOBAL HULTZ PRIZE ACCELERATION, a culmination of the Hult Prize activities. This is after emerging as one of the best teams from Africa in the Regional Competitions that were held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This month – at Boston – the team managed to be among the top 6 countries that will be competing for the US$1 Million cash price in New York City in September. Apart from representing Kenya in the finale (in New York City), the Eco-Bana team will also be representing the whole African continent.

Conclusively, they plan to have the sanitary towels produced in large numbers once they are done with the paperwork that comes with the certification of new products and the approval from the Ministry of Health. For now, they are only having a few for demonstration.

BYLINE: Lucky Oluoch
CREDIT LINE: Freelance Journalist
TWITTER: @LuckyOluoch
EMAIL: oneolwoch@gmail.com

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Lucky Oluoch is a multifaceted prolific Gen-Z journalist and communication guru who is pursuing a B.A in Communication and with extensive experience in the field. Lucky's work has been featured in prominent Kenyan media outlets such as Radio Africa Group, NationAfrica, Tuko Media and Mediamax Network Ltd (where he also served as an Acting Sub-Editor and Opinion Editor). EMAIL: oneolwoch@gmail.com