Monica's story: a social enterprise that is keeping girls in school
With some IT knowledge, business savvy, and a lot of self-confidence, DOT Kenya ReachUp! participant Monica Mwangi created a social enterprise that is keeping girls in school.
For many young women in Kenya, starting monthly periods is one of the most challenging experiences of their lives. Sanitary supplies are expensive and can be difficult to find. Many girls are faced with a challenge: to attend school and risk embarrassment, or miss school and fall behind?
A participant in Digital Opportunity Trust Kenya (DOT Kenya's) ReachUp! program, Monica Mwangi recognized the problem. Living in the Naivasha slums, she noticed that most girls could not afford to buy the sanitary pads available in local shops. In fact, on enquiry, some girls confessed to using old socks stuffed with sand as protection, while others said they used rags or ripped-off pieces of mattresses. Girls who did not have access to supplies often missed school out of fear of possible blood-stain embarrassments, and the annoying thought of frequently rushing to the toilets to check for stains. These conditions led girls to feign sickness or make an excuse so they could miss school for three to five days a month.
While taking DOT's ReachUp! program where she researched the potential business opportunities around her, Monica recognized that there had to be a way to provide girls with affordable menstrual supplies. The idea had the potential to help her earn an income while also improving the lives of girls in her community.
During the ReachUp! course, Monica was introduced to using technology to help support and grow small businesses. Using her new skills, she did Internet research on how to create reusable sanitary towels and underwear for women.
Monica decided to host workshops in her community that girls could attend for a small fee. As we developed her business idea in the ReachUp! classes, I encouraged Monica to share her knowledge with the older, influential women in her community so they could encourage girls to attend the workshops. The response was overwhelming. Monica was able to train many girls, and she held a number of subsequent workshops.
Soon Monica was hosting sanitary pad making workshops in neighbouring communities also. Because the sanitary pads are sewn from old cotton clothes and are reusable, girls could make four of them during a workshop and it would be enough to last an entire year.
Word got out of the great impact of Monica's new social enterprise. Through the DOT Network, DOT Intern Ayshah Maende heard about the workshops and contacted Monica about how to host her own workshops for girls in her community on the coast of Kenya. Ayshah has since hosted her own reusable sanitary pad making workshops.
The impact of a small idea is inspiring. Because of the confidence and skills DOT gave her, Monica has improved the lives of hundreds of girls in Kenya - and at the same time she has established a sustainable income-generating activity for herself. She saw a social problem, identified an opportunity, applied innovation, used business sense, tapped into her network - and changed lives.
About DOT's ReachUp! Program:
ReachUp! is Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT)'s foundation economic program. This program trains local university graduates (DOT Interns) to deliver technology, business, and workforce readiness skills training to people in communities that are developing, under stress, or in transition. http://dotrust.org