A team of five Kenyan students recently won $1 million in a global entrepreneurship competition and have now launched a business that would make biodegradable sanitary pads from banana fiber. The exciting new project will go a long way in solving period poverty in Kenya and across the continent.
The students from St. Paul's University in Limuru, Kiambu County, outcompeted more than 10,000 other competitors from around the globe in order to win the coveted annual Hult Prize. The annual competition recognizes all innovative social enterprises that deal with the world's most serious problems.
The newly formed company is called Eco-Bana, and the students are optimistic that their product can end period poverty, reduce plastic sanitary pad pollution, and lower youth unemployment in Kenya and across the continent.
Their business will use banana fiber, which is typically thrown away as waste, to produce biodegradable sanitary pads. The students claim that they are going to sell their products in the market for less money because the raw materials lower their expenses.
The organization's chief executive, Mr. Omondi, stated that helping as many girls as possible buy sanitary pads is their primary objective. Their invention will also address the long-standing issue of pollution brought on by polyvinyl chloride, the plastic used to manufacture the majority of pads that include 90% plastic.
"Many leaders frequently claim that generosity is insufficient. "Because of this, we considered producing reasonably priced sanitary pads so they wouldn't need to rely on charity," he said.
The inability to pay for menstrual products is a major issue in East and Central Africa. According to estimates from UNICEF, 85 percent of Tanzanian women and 65 percent of Kenyan women, respectively, cannot afford decent sanitary items.
In addition, a quarter of girls in Uganda aged 12 to 18 stop attending school once they start menstruating as a result of period poverty. According to estimates, 18% of Rwandan women and girls miss work or school due to menstruation.
With the $1 million in prize money, Eco-Bana will become the first company in the world to produce biodegradable pads. They will be sold for almost half the average price of standard pads on the market, and they will be of comparable comfort and quality.
The business will also employ more than 2,000 people within the next two years, according to Mr. Dullah, chief financial officer of Eco-Bana. He stated that the first stage is to build a manufacturing facility, which will either be in the top banana-producing counties of Kisii or Meru.
Additionally, the students intend to launch an environmental awareness campaign to educate people on the advantages of switching to biodegradable sanitary pads. Mr. Dullah said it was important to educate people about their positive environmental impact. He stated that "We are conscious that we are entering a market that is already crowded with competitors, and that not many people are aware of the issue of plastic waste.
The students are also very aware of the difficulties ahead. Mr. Omondi remarked, "We have faced numerous hurdles, from gathering finances for developing our prototypes to obtaining the necessary abilities to build a standard product, but we've navigated all of them and soared through." Despite the fact that the company is made up of young people, the team is very confident in its knowledge and abilities to lead the business to success.
Their objective is to make their products available throughout the region and eventually the world. They are certain that over the next two years they will rank among the top employers in Kenya and sell their goods throughout East Africa, if not the entire continent.