An Ingenious Way to Help Girls Stay in School

On an otherwise reasonable evening in July, more than 1,000 people packed an auditorium in Boulder, Colorado,  for the culmination of the 2014 Unreasonable Institute. They came to watch 11 ventures present their solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Here, in on of those talks, Unreasonable Institute fellow Rachel Starkey, CEO of Transformation Textiles, explains how her startup is using textile remnants to make low-cost underwear and menstrual pads to help keep girls in Sub-Saharan Africa in school. Access to these items can boost girls’ classroom attendance by 75 percent in some places.

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Unreasonable Institute

Unreasonable Institute

The Unreasonable Institute arms entrepreneurs creating solutions to the world’s biggest social and environmental problems with the mentorship, capital, and networks they need to do so.

  • Glassborow

    I think this is a really powerful video, it’s awful to think even to this day people can still not get basic necessities, and to think this has such a knock on effect for girls and their education is pretty depressing. I hope this video becomes more viral and something more can be done – just making a small amount of essentials for girls in Kenya increased school attendance by 75%! Great video, thank you

  • Alex Prailes

    I think this is an awesome way to open peoples eyes on how others live their lives. Previously before this video I had no idea that this was an issue that girls had. It’s mind blowing that we could improve school attendance by 75% for something as small as this. I think this is something that not a lot of people know about, but I think that if it was brought to peoples attention it would be something many people would help support.

  • ReneeBinder

    This is an awesome video. I think people take so much for granted in society and this video really makes me realize how lucky I am. In my health class we also watched a ted talk about a gentleman who created something similar. It is amazing what an impact it can have.

  • SitaSantos

    I was really motivated by watching this video on Rachel Starkey’s garment company’s initiative to use her textile scraps to produce “underwear and menstrual pads to help keep girls in Sub-Saharan Africa in school.” She went on to explain how access to these items can boost girls’ classroom attendance by 75 percent in some places!” This initiative is sparking an idea in me to continue working with the scraps from my mother’s clothing factory in Bali Indonesia to create even more useful products. In 2012, during my gap year, I visited Bali for around one month and designed reusable bags and pencil cases made from the textile remnants of her factory to be used instead of plastic bags, which are causing a huge pollution problem on the island. The proceeds then supported the construction of a recycling and compost facility for the factory’s waste, which was built using sustainable bamboo and a recycled plastic roof tiling.

  • rewebster3

    I will always be in awe at how the most basic of needs that we take for granted in the United States is not a given in other countries; the statistics associated with not having clean undergarments to wear correlated with finishing school was jaw dropping. It makes me think more basic in regard to the needs of another country versus what I have and have had each and every day and wondering how and if I can make a difference in someone’s life.

  • Abby2017

    We are so blessed here in the U.S correct. We wouldn’t even think of something so small can make a huge difference and relate it to education. I think that it is great that they make the underwear and etc. for the girls and it will last them three years. That is amazing to me.

  • Anniep1023

    This video made me realize how blessed I am to be an American. I do not have to worry about having clean clothes and access to feminine products. These girls in these struggling countries deserve to have access to clean undergarments and feminine products. By having these items, they are able to go to school and succeed. Women and men around the world should be aware of this crisis so we can do our part to help these girls succeed in many aspects of their lives.

  • Jessica Mendoza

    Wow. Awesome presentation. The main thing that stuck out to me in this video was the picture that said,”Female Hygiene + Health Education= 75% increase attendance.” That is a outstanding number! It is crazy that simply providing the things for girls that they need for female hygiene, and providing them a little bit more information on it, can cause such an impact! Not only does the video give me home, but it also makes me feel lucky and blessed. I live in a place where things like this are so easily assessable. I have never heard of one girl dropping out of school because they don’t have the proper things they need for their period or other things. I am extremely luck to have these things, and would love to help something like this spread to help girls. This just shows that something so little can make such a great and huge impact. Truly awesome!

  • Jessica Mendoza

    I also agree that this video not only made me feel blessed, but it made me feel lucky as well. This is not something that I have ever had to worry about. When I first got my period, it was as simple as going to the store and getting the products that I need. I never realized how much of an impact these items have really had on my life. I was able to go to school, and I am still able to strive to succeed. I think that this should spread, and should be made aware to everyone around the world. It shows that something as little as providing the proper feminine products, can really make a huge change.

  • Jessica Mendoza

    We really are so blessed here in the US. This is not even something that we would think about having an impact on our lives. All of this is amazing to me too. It is crazy to me that the smallest initiative can make such a great and huge impact!

  • Jessica Mendoza

    It really is an awesome way to open people eyes as to how others live. I would have never thought, before this video, that feminine hygiene products have such a big impact on my life. The reason why I don’t realize that is because of how easy, and how available it is to get. I don’t see why people wouldn’t want to support this. This is amazing! It shows that something as little as providing female hygiene products to people that need it, can make a huge impact!

  • Sara Fuller

    It’s amazing how much school these girls are missing because of something they can’t control. I am very happy that this woman and others are reaching out to help these young ladies continue their education and be more comfortable.

  • purperoar21

    We as humans adapt to whatever circumstances given. While we adapt to a status of which we find neutral or mediocre, these girls would find it to be a luxury. Just as we find classes above us’s normalcy to be a luxury. However, we sit and envy celebrities and successful people who’s talent and hard work (in most cases) brought them their. We were born into what these girls see as luxury and did nothing to deserve all that we have access to. People in third world countries are so unbelievably content with what they have in terms of materialistic items. For them, unsatisfaction comes with the lack of crucial necessities like food and health care. Where we lack satisfaction for things that are unnecessary in the scheme of life. We were born into this life just as these girls did, with no say or no control. However what we can control is sharing our luxuries with them and extending a helping hand to them. Lastly spreading awareness as to why this is relevant to us. I had the chance to experience life in a third world country, I gained perspective that without that experience I would not feel as obligated to share the importance of this issue with others. Not everyone is going to witness this first hand and that we why spreading the word is so important.

  • Justine Gordon

    I thought I had a good grasp of
    most of the troubles that those who are less fortunate than I go through,
    however I was clearly wrong. I never imagined that something so natural as a
    menstrual cycle could have such a devastating and lasting effect on a girl’s
    education. Being a woman in America once we get our periods we are taught how
    to take care of ourselves and that’s it. It is such a routine process of
    feminine hygiene that we are taught, that I never even considered what other
    women who can’t just run to Publix do to take care of these needs. Sadly it
    seems that Mother Nature herself is another obstacle to overcome in the fight
    of providing education to all women.

    Every year as a Christmas present my
    mother, sister and I instead of buying gifts for one another, we donate to
    charity in some capacity. One year we donated, through a campaign hosted by
    Oprah, school desks to African students.
    Another year we fed a family in Haiti for a month. This year after
    watching this video I want to give my mother and sister the gift of providing a
    girl or professional women in Africa access to a Dignity Kit created by
    Transformation Textiles. These kits last up to 3 years and the donation also
    includes an education session.

    It would be interesting to become
    more connected with the women that are being aided through this program. If
    spot light videos or even letters of or from the women that were being helped
    were added to the companies website that would be a great and tangible way to
    foster a greater connection. I looked at the pictures of some of these women on
    the companies Facebook page and the smiles on their faces are absolutely contagious.

  • Briana McNeil

    Before watching this video and learning about Transformation
    Textiles I was completely oblivious that this specific trouble facing these
    young women even existed; I just assumed every girl had some way or some access
    to materials to deal with their menstrual cycle. Growing up in America getting
    your period and ‘becoming a women’ was a mostly exciting, slightly scary rite
    of passage that most girls look forward to. I didn’t realize how much I took
    having my basic sanitary needs taken care of, having your period to begin with
    is an inconvenience even having easy access to everything from underwear to pads
    to Midol. The fact that by simply having access to feminine products and health
    education raises the attendance rate by 75% is outstanding; I never would have
    thought that something that can be so easily dealt with caused such a
    significant hindrance to women’s education. These young women should not be
    punished for something that is a biological factor out of their control. I’m
    curious as to how you chose the women who get picked for to receive the Dignity
    Kits as well as what happens when their three year kit runs out. I hope that
    those that had access to these materials do not return to their originally predicament
    of having to miss school. The work you are doing is amazing, not only by reducing
    waste here in the United States but then taking what we would have just thrown
    away without a second thought and turning it into something that changes girls’
    lives is truly incredible. I’m sure many other countries face this issue as
    well and I would love to see this initiative branch out and reach all women
    across the globe that are in need of such basic feminine care products. I hope
    more people learn about this cause and become aware of how this a serious issue
    facing young women in developing countries.