Two sisters’ passion for working with the disadvantaged and visiting public schools brought them face to face with the reality of menstrual hygiene and how it is still a taboo topic in some communities.
Faith and Linda Kimeu then decided to help young girls and women manage their menstrual cycles better.
“Our company, Kimmis Non Toxins, initially concentrated on helping students in public schools know the importance of cleanliness and wash their hands before handling food and after visiting the toilet, from here menstrual hygiene came in,” Faith told Enterprise.
The duo then developed an app, known as Dial a Pad, which gives women an option of ordering sanitary towels and their delivery to offices or homes. The firm also offers information on menstrual hygiene and health.
With no capital to set up the venture, the two pitched their idea to investors through the Lion’s Den TV show.
Faith holds a degree in biochemistry while Linda holds a master’s in religion from the University of Nairobi.
Their appearance on the show opened many doors. “People started calling us, telling us they liked our idea and would like to help. This enabled us to raise funds to set up the app,” says Faith.
With a starting capital of Sh500,000, the duo developed the app which was launched this January, they received their first order in February.
They have also partnered with Sendy, an online platform which delivers products to clients. Kenyan women and girls can now make orders of sanitary towels which are delivered to their homes and other destinations. “We have received positive feedback from a lot of women,” Linda says.
They started out with an inventory of products worth Sh250,000. Today they sell more than 200 products monthly.
Myths and taboos
The app also has a section on menstrual hygiene which teaches girls and women on cleanliness.
“Menstruation in Kenya is not approached holistically. People donate sanitary towels and then leave. No one tackles hygiene. If one is not clean then it can affect her reproductive system,” says Linda.
Many cultures have beliefs, myths and taboos relating to menstruation. There are social norms about managing the circle.
It is time the African man embraced menstruation, they say, adding that Kenyan men should borrow a leaf from Egyptians who used to take time off their official duties to take care of their wives and children during the period.
The app has a section where a parent can request the firm to host a party for their daughter who has witnessed her first periods. The party, hosted by certified peer educators, includes lessons on menstrual hygiene and changes in the body. They also give the girl a year’s supply of sanitary towels.
The firm has developed a sanitary towel dispenser which they plan to pitch to organisations.
“The dispenser can be kept in women’s toilets where one can access a pad at a fee. It will save women from running around shops or asking someone to lend them a pad,” Linda adds.
Their biggest challenge is limited capital to keep the business running and overcoming taboos on the issue.
Dial-a-Pad has won an award from the Dutch Embassy.