The Most Affordable Way to Keep Girls in School

Megan Mukuria is one of three entrepreneurs in residence who joined us for a portion of the program. We learned from their experience and as a community, helped to accelerate the growth of their projects.


Together we can help unleash girls and step boldly into the promise of their future Tweet This Quote

Megan founded ZanaAfrica with the conviction that sanitary pads and reproductive health education are not only a basic human right, but also address root causes of gender inequality. Based in Kenya, ZanaAfrica manufactures and distributes radically affordable sanitary pads, underwear and health comics. It has served over 12,000 girls and plan to reach at minimum one million by 2020.


This post is part of a series profiling ventures in the first accelerator program dedicated to impacting the lives of millions of girls in poverty. For more information on the program, check out the Girl Effect Accelerator website.

About the author

Unreasonable Media

Unreasonable Media

As a company, Unreasonable Media is dedicated to leveraging the power of stories to shift paradigms and solve problems. That's why we have made almost all the videos you see on this site. Long story short, we are not your average production company. Visit our site to see for yourself.

  • dbickel

    “…and men you might not want to be thinking about it. But it’s not about pads, it’s about productivity and purpose.” I was quite surprised and happy to hear this. I feel like she instantly lost part of my attention when I knew the rest of the information to come was about sanitary pads… She really recaptured me within the first minute of her presentation when she referred to her idea as not just sanitary pads, but an idea with purpose. Overall, I’ve come to learn through these videos that lack of sanitary pads is a huge problem for young women in Kenya and all across Africa. I think it is wonderful what Megan Mukuria has started here.

  • Will Carter

    It’s amazing the widespread affect that something so simple can have on a person’s life. I wonder what other opportunities like this are out there?

  • amandaclaire94

    I’ve read about this somewhere before that girls just stay home instead of going to school when its their time of the month. I still can’t believe this is still an issue. I can’t even imagine having to face this problem myself and its crazy that I take something so simple for granted. I am so glad that someone is actually taking the initiate to implement pads into budgets and giving them basic knowledge of sexual education.

  • Mallory Benham

    Yes Unreasonable also had another feature video about a man who created a simple machine to create sanitary pads for woman to make and sell. This is another awesome way to keep girls in school!

  • asprain

    Wow, it’s interesting to see how something so simple in our daily lives are needed so badly in others. It’s not something I would think about every day but it changes their lives to have pads so necessary in order to go to school and have a better life.

  • karnold001

    I watched that video too. What I liked about ZanaAfrica that this other video did not include was the addition of sexual education. I think that this is extremely important for all children to learn but especially the girls who do not fully understand what their body is doing during this time of the month

  • Wilson Mugabo

    She has a big heart for poor and uneducated girls in Africa.
    Growing up in Africa, I have had to see these terrible things happen to these
    girls and I feel like its high time we encourage and support such an act of
    humanity. I like her innovative idea, but there is a need to be done. There is a
    big problem that girls in the remote areas won’t be able to access those
    interesting opportunities

  • Gaby Perez

    Many times I take for granted products like sanitary pads that make my life both easier and productive. It makes me sad that many girls in the world don’t have this commodity and I can’t come close to imagining how their life is during their period. I love how Zana is helping girls get the sanitary pads to go to school and stop missing up to six weeks because of the lack of it. Also, Zona is empowering women to take control of their bodies and teaching them about sex education which many lack the knowledge of. It’s a great program, and I hope that one day every girl will have this product.

  • kschwein

    I was the same way when I started this topic too but she kept me interested and made me realize the deeper meaning of it even though this is something that I don’t have to deal with. I never would’ve known that this was such a big problem for these young girls but I think that this is a great idea to help the young girls of Africa.

  • 204Ted

    The importance of education in developing countries is hugely important. The fact that addressing simple personal health issues in an affordable manner can further help education in developing countries is a great thing. Furthermore I feel that this shows that from an entrepreneur standpoint, social entrepreneurship is going to be a huge area of advancement to help our worldwide society develop in the decades to come.

  • Katie Larson

    I agree with Megan that in 2015, sanitary pads should be a human right. ZanaAfrica and other social enterprises such as Indian-based Jayaashree Industries saw a need and created a solution. If women and girls do not have access to, or cannot afford sanitary pads, then find a better, cheaper and more socially sustainable way to provide the pads.

  • James Callahan

    That is the heart of an entrepreneur, to see an issue and identify a creative solution to the problem. In this case it has the added benefit of helping girls have the opportunity to get an education and a future. I definitely agree that sanitary pads and health education should be a basic human right.

  • David Ingerman

    I never would of thought that something like not having sanitary pads would have such a lasting negative effect on girl’s education. To think that not having these sanitary pads caused an increase in the amount of girls not going to school by the age of 16, by twice amount of uneducated boys. It is extremely sad that these poor girls would have to result to sex just to have this necessity. I think it is amazing that ZanaAfrica can now provide this basic necessity to these girls and that they have been able to keep so many girls in school. It makes me wonder what other basic necessities that these people do not have, that impede on their quality of life. What else could we give to these kids that would increase the amount that stay in school?

  • Alex_C_B

    Poor girls’ lack of pads (or rather how the girls respond to the lack of them) is something that I would never have thought about. I would never have looked into the issue beyond feeling bad for them. I am glad that someone was able to not only look AT the issue, but look INTO is as well. Lacking pads is bad, yes, but missing school is worse.

    I think that by putting the sanitary pads business into the hands of women, rather an a government body, it ensures the quality, dedication and spread of the endeavor. By putting it in their hands, it ensures that the solution sticks and is effective.

  • rntom

    Something so simple we take advantage of every day here in the U.S. is literally changing lives elsewhere. Your work is brilliant and inspiring.

  • Abbusse11

    I agree and when Megan first started talking I didn’t see this coming. I am so annoyed at that time of the month as woman and can’t imagine if I had to stay home because of it. It is ridiculous how much these items cost every month too, Oh my what a difference this opportunity made. Education is key and something that all young women need. Thank you for your love and thoughtfulness Megan. I hope that I am able to find a challenge that I can help with to make a difference for young women anywhere.

  • Paigekenley

    It is very over looked at the way girls view themselves. A woman or girl has a hard time being successful if she doesn’t not feel good about herself. Many don’t understand especially males why girls brains work like this but they do. Pads are not a little thing to us girls but to others it seems like something so little. When really it can make all the difference. I really love how in depth her talk went and I loved how it showed how you feel about your self can have an affect on things in our everyday lives such as education.

  • Britt27LaM

    This is such a common household item for many people around the world; it is insane to think the impact it can make on a girls education. I love that she was able to not only help their health, but drive education through the funding. Women around the world should have every resource available to them because they are equal to men. This is an awesome start to empower women.

  • Jeremy Rhone

    This was a truly remarkable discovery that Megan made; linking the lack of pads to the lack of education. It has the potential to reach an astonishing number of girls, and really change the face of education in all areas of the world. There is a great “return on investment” for all economies that ZanaAfrica is introduced to, and I would expect that rate to increase. I’m willing to bet that there are similar opportunities to help that are being overlooked still.

  • erinleigh28

    I agree that this is something that needs to be put in the hands of women who understand and have been there. A government agency wouldn’t have the empathy necessary to make it effective.

  • jvlewis1

    I found this very amazing. The fact that one simple thing such as sanitary pads, could change a country. This is an excellent example of small things count. A lot of people around me always say that girls in Africa get mistreated and are oppressed and explain the big situations but not a single person has said anything about sanitary pads. This could also lead to girls in Africa getting more respect because they will be more educated and have the power of knowledge on their side!

  • Lynn Kraus

    Agreed James. I’m most impressed with Megan’s matter-of-fact approach to what can be an uncomfortable topic of discussion. There’s also another rad solution that’s out there called Pads4Girls. P4G provides a reusable cloth pads & underwear solution to girls rather than disposable pads. The reusable solution is less costly & more convenient in terms of access for these families, & it eliminates the garbage issue that disposable pads create.

  • joconne4

    There are a lot of basic things that we have that we don’t realize how important they are until they aren’t there anymore. When people don’t get to have such simple amenities, they have much more pressing and base problems to worry about than things like a higher education.

  • rall1

    I have to admit, that through most of the video, I was mostly concerned about why this organization’s focus was on providing disposable sanitary materials to girls and women instead of high quality reusable pads and menstral cups. Upon further research, I learned that there are significant concerns about access to clean water in order to properly sanitize such materials.

    It’s amazing and incredibly sad to think about how integrated simple access to proper health care and clean water are. I’m grateful that organization likes Zana Africa and The Water Project are working to make strides to ensure that girls and women are able to meet the fullness of their potential.

  • KateLangyher

    Wow, I have never thought of the strong link between menstrual cycles and schooling for schools. I love that someone noticed and has a team working to completely solve this problem. Way to go!

  • tinkers4

    I think it’s crazy that something we take for granted and never think about not having can mean something so powerful to others. I think this is amazing work and she is really working to help better women and empower them.

  • tinkers4

    When I listened to Megan’s speech I didn’t really think about how matter of fact she was about it. I found myself in awe that something so common to us could be so hard to get and mean so much. Reading your comment really had me step back and think about her speech differently.

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    Dear Megan thank you for sharing this video with us. I find it really great what you are doing for the girls. I would have new have guess just that by having a pad could help keep girls in school and to get a better education. In one of my classes we learn about the girl affect in africa which we are trying to help girls get out of sex salvery. My classes is have bake sales to raise money so they can go back to school to get an education. She told us they have raised over 10,000 so far. I look forward to help with this cuase to get girls an eduction. Thank you again for this video I think it is great on what you are doing.

  • Glassborow

    Such a heart wrenching video, it’s really sad to see that sanitary pads, such an essential and basic human right is taken away from girls because they are too poor to pay for them which in turn stops them from getting a proper education. And what makes it much worse is that sometimes girls have to sell their bodies to get sanitary pads. Personally, I believe all female toiletries should be free to all girls and shouldn’t have to be paid for, it’s a necessity and as Megan stated, providing these for girls makes a big difference.

  • James Sullivan

    Educating these young women about their health and bodies is wonderful, the pads are great too. I believe, educating the young is the best thing for society, like the saying give a man a fish feed him for a night, however, teach a man to fish feed him for eternity. These young children can take this knowledge, apply it to what’s happening to their bodies, which will make them more comfortable and confident. Seems like a great service and I wonder how it will develop.

  • Lauren Schlicht

    Its so sad to see that something as little as sanity pads can prevent girls from getting an education. I think supplying these girls with the products they need to stay in school and be able to actually attend school is one of the most important things. Something so simple can make such a large difference. It breaks my heart to know that something such as pads is something so many women in America take for granted. It was so heart warming to see how excited the girls were when they got the products they deserve. I like how they market the sanity products with health information in the form of cartoons to educate the girls about proper hygiene and health.

  • Lauren Schlicht

    Ashley, I have to express how strongly I agree with your post. I also was shocked to learn that something as simple as pads could make such an impact. I think its one of those things when you change your way of thinking, you change the world around you.

  • Emily Krueger

    I was inspired by the talk Megan gave about pad and sex education. Now I am aware of the lack of supplies of pad for girls in Zana Africa. This is amazing work she has done to raise awareness about this issue.

  • mpierson19

    I thought the same thing, how else can we help people in ways that are so simple and will have a huge impact?

  • Brooke Bower

    I never thought that something as simple as pads was actually a luxury for people in other countries. Also, I never linked the two together but it makes sense. No girl would want to sit in a classroom all day on her period without a pad. It reminds me of when I was in middle school. Girls would leave school if they leaked through their pad. I believe that all woman should have equal access to pads. They shouldn’t have to sleep with someone to get a pad. Pads are necessary during a woman’s period, and pads help women to be clean. And I agree, that there should be more health education on sex. They should learn how to prevent pregnancies, and STD’s before it’s too late. Its even more important for girls to understand why they have a period. I believe even in America girls should learn about sex instead of learning not to have sex. I believe that because then they ask their friends for information which can be false. Overall, this is a great idea for girls. It’s even better because it’ll help girls achieve a higher education and stay in school.

  • rewebster3

    I must say that I am super shocked at the statistics surrounding the percentages of girls in Kenya and just cannot believe these girls have the three options of selling their bodies, hopefully being called to go to high school or just sitting at home. I am super excited at the fact that something as simple as educating a girl and equipping her with the education necessary to just feel good about herself and keep herself clean is just amazing. I still cannot believe that at such a small price point the impact on the girls and the country can be so huge. Like the comments before me, it does make me wonder what impact I could possibly have in my community by thinking smaller to help at a greater level.

  • january26throwaway

    to quote a quote about a quote:

    “Stephen Tyler, of all people, once said: ‘if men bled, would tampons be free?’ JB

  • Ashley Nicole Rietbrock

    I agree with you what you are saying. It is unreal for how much we take for granted in this world and in some countries all they want is a pad for women to go to school more. If more people knew about this just think how big of impacted it would be for those girls and go help them by so much.

  • MeierKM23

    I haven’t even thought of this problem because I am blessed enough to be able to buy my own and have the money to. It is amazing how one person can make a difference in those girls’ life with one thing that they need but cannot afford. In one of my classes, I am getting together with a group for a bake sale to raise money for the girl effect and I really like seeing these videos on continuing to help them.

  • MeierKM23

    I also was super shocked about the statistics that we were told from the video. It is hard to hear that the girls so have those three options of selling their bodies, being called to go to high school, or just having to sit at home. I can’t even imagine because I am privileged enough to have been able to go to high school and now I am getting to go to college. I really like seeing people like this, who work so hard and make a difference to people that really need it. I also have thought about the impact I could have to help someone out eventually.

  • awither1

    It is crazy to think about how something that doesn’t seem like a big deal in our lives can change somebody else’s life so drastically.

  • Abby2017

    This is great that there are people who are trying to solve the problem of girls who are forced to miss school. Megan is a very inspiring person and she is trying to help. I think its amazing she want to reach out to as many poor families in Africa especially women. She believes in strong women and I like that she is working hard with others to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.

  • Lindsay Jakubik

    I couldn’t imagine living where our everyday necessities are luxuries…

  • Amy Rink

    Thank you for posting this video! For one of my classes we actually just had a bake sale to raise money for the Girl Effect program. Before this class though, I never heard of it until I watched the video and saw how many girls are being effected. Anything that can be done to stop what is happening to these poor girls needs to be done. In the end little bit will go a long way.

  • Lindsey Kessler

    I am very impressed with Megan’s very creative and thoughtful solution to the problem to such a significant problem that we don’t even think or talk about. I am very impressed by her matter-of-factness that is needed in order to solve this problem. I also agree that sanitary pads and health education should be a basic human right.

  • Kayla

    I really enjoyed this! I am currently working on a project to use photography to empower teenage girls in the US to have higher self esteem, higher graduation rates, and lower rates of pregnancy. There are many simple solutions to problems that young woman face today, and I love that Meagan found something so small that has such a great impact for young girls! I was so inspired by this video and It made me think about the fact that my own social innovation can be small and impactful. Thank You!

  • Brooke Bower

    What you are doing is a great thing. Photography can make a huge impact on someone’s life. I believe having a higher self-esteem will lead to higher graduation rates and lower rates of pregnancy. It’s important to solve the problems that women face today, and it could be something so simple as pads. Being able to go to school, will have a huge impact on these young girls. It was empowering.

  • Anniep1023

    I believe that helping girls around the world is such an important cause. As women, we are strong, independent, and nurturing. However, for thousands of years we have been treated as the weaker sex and therefore treated poorly. While we have made great strides in the past years, we have a long way to go, especially in third world countries. That is why I think the Girl Effect is a great organization. Giving these girls a chance to succeed is not only helping their lives, it is helping the lives of all of the people around them. Keep up the great work!

  • kolinjk29

    Its amazing to see how something can affect a persons life in a instant. Giving the gift of education can greatly benefit a girls life. Helping girls around the world is very important in keeping out education system strong.

  • maxfunny

    I like to think of how easy it is for us to turn a light or clean water. I would love to see what would happen if America lived that same quality of life. I wonder if we could get more ex poser to these types of thing.

  • Kaila Witthun

    This is amazing. It is incredible to think how something little can make sure an impact in someone’s life. It may just seem like not a big deal to some, but these are lives of individuals that can be changed. They could be the next person to come up an idea to help even more people.

  • Emily Krueger

    I was inspired by the talk Megan gave about pad and sex education. Now I am aware of the lack of supplies of pad for girls in Zana Africa. This is amazing work she has done to raise awareness about this issue.

  • Thumbs_up

    It is really shocking how little things as the sanitary pads are incredible important for things like education and health. Things which are a human right as for example education, are being prevented of be reached because of simple things. Congratulation to the Girl effect organization that have been helping those girls.

  • Azra Samiee

    Megan is correct in proclaiming that pads and health education should be a human right. The increase in success of these girls in school because of the new accessibility to sanitary napkins illustrates how much of an unnecessary stress it was on them. Zana Africa has done amazing work to not only open the discussion on an uncomfortable topic but also to provide a means of financial empowerment for these women through pad sales.

  • Kyrstin Deffendall

    1. I heard once that the best way to end the world’s problems is to educate the world’s women. I find this holds significant merit, because these girls and women have so much to contribute to society. It is truly heart breaking that something that we take for granted here in the states is so unavailable and makes such a huge difference to people in less fortunate countries. I also feel that it is incredibly progressive of the Kenyan government to willingly write menstrual pads into the budget; it is good to see that people are beginning to truly care about women and their needs. It is interesting to me that the Kenyan government, a nation that is third world and significantly less privileges compared to western Europe and America, willingly help to provide their women with pads whereas menstrual products have a luxury tax in many other first world countries. I understand, however, that the necessity is different. The girls in Kenya need to have these products to avoid having to go into prostitution to support themselves, and I just find it really great that the government is taking such things seriously. This is a big step in reaching gender equality. However, I feel that luxury taxing menstrual products promotes a divide among the genders and encourages engrained sexism. Her mentioning of pads having to be “sexy” was also intriguing to me, and we really forget that even when people don’t have a lot they want to feel good about themselves. It is very easy to forget that a girl’s self-esteem helps contribute to her education. If she is not confident she won’t feel like she can perform. Providing these pads gives them a whole new outlook on what they are capable of and shows that now there is nothing the boys have over them. This talk was incredibly inspirational and I feel that more people need to look at the significance of women’s healthcare and products and how big of an impact they can have on the futures of these girls.