Nabuyuni’s Scan 4 Pads project wins at the global ITU Innovation Challenge
Nabuyuni Sankan is a 4th Year Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) student, with a passionate allegiance to her community. She hails from Narok County. Just in her early twenties, this young lady has already founded a community empowerment initiative, Maisumata Community programme. She explains that Maisumata stands for “Let us study” in her native Maasai Language. The programme aims at empowering, encouraging, and educating young learners through digital literacy and entrepreneurship skills. It is her commitment to help solve the plight of young girls in rural Narok on matters of menstrual health that inspired the birth of the Scan 4 Pads project.
A remarkable win
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for all matters related to information and communication technologies. The 2020 edition of the ITU Innovation Challenge was an open global competition platform for innovators and ecosystem builders to present their ideas and projects, empowering them to transform their communities into thriving digital societies. When Sankan learnt about the ITU Innovation Challenge from her lecturer and final year project supervisor, Dr. Henry Muchiri, she says she grabbed onto the opportunity without hesitation. Two of her close friends, Teresia Maina, a #Strathmore20 Bachelor of Commerce (BCOM) graduand, and Co-founder of Scan 4 Pads, and Anthony Mwangi, a Bachelor of Business Information Technology alumnus, journeyed with her all through the research and technology implementation.
“I drew a lot of inspiration from these two, and Dr. Muchiri. I really owe it to them and I think I did them a solid by winning,” says Sankan in between proud chuckles.
The dawn of the global COVID-19 pandemic saw schools close and a massive disruption of health services in the country. Sankan notes the subsequent significant decrease in the level of access to menstrual health and hygiene education, and access to sanitary materials – especially in her community. The potential of easily falling into the practice of harmful retrogressive traditions and beliefs around menstrual health is strong and poses a serious threat to young girls.
A recent study by Menstrual Health Kenya shows that girls in remote areas do not associate menstruation with pregnancy and only 45% of them are able to discuss the issue openly with their parents. 65% of these girls and women cannot afford Sanitary towels. Such is the narrative that this spirited young lady is fighting to change. “Having grown up in a Maasai community, my aim is to instill pride and a kind of confidence in relation to menstrual health, which seems to be a taboo and a window for stigmatisation,” she says.
Curbing “period poverty”
Sankan’s Scan 4 Pads provides a platform that will facilitate the distribution of pads at a subsidized rate hence improving access to sanitary materials at a rate lower than the retail price. As she gears towards implementing this noble project and impacting her community, Sankan has approached local sanitary pads manufacturer, ZanaAfrica Foundation, a Kenyan-based social impact business that seeks to expand access to high quality, low-cost feminine hygiene products, for partnership engagements. QR codes will contain each girl’s profile and an E-wallet account where the money will be topped-up using M-Pesa services. UNICEF will assist in getting cards that the QR codes will be printed on.
Parents or guardians are only required to part with Kshs 15, which covers 30% of the total cost of a pad while the remaining 70% fee in addition to delivery of the sanitary towels will be covered by the Maisumata Community programme. Parents will only need to have a legally registered Sim Card to allow them top up their daughters’ accounts from the Scan 4 Pads system. They would then just be required to make the card available for scanning before being issued with the sanitary towels once every month for a whole year.
In the Women in Technology category, this innovative project trumped over forty-five other proposals and emerged victorious. Sankan says that despite her fear in facing diverse brilliant minds from the world over, what kept her going was the fact that she approached this project with a zeal that came from the heart. Making a difference in her community means the world to her. Having people of varied calibres praise her idea, including Doctors and Professors, she says, was a humbling yet uplifting experience.
Planting a mustard seed
The project is slowly taking shape. Its vision is to see over ten schools in Narok County adopt this QR code card system to receive pads for school girls and to shatter the stereotypes and uninformed notions surrounding menstrual health in the rural Narok communities. Educating and convincing communities to work together to raise funds to curb period poverty through innovative entrepreneurial activities is embedded in the pillars of Scan 4 Pads. This ensures its scalability and sustainability. Sankan sounds like a young Maya Angelou as she explains this point saying “entrepreneurship without innovation is just trading and innovation without entrepreneurship is just being creative.”
She seeks to find ways to do better to help many other learners find a place in the community, where these pertinent topics are discussed openly and even boys are taught about menstrual health. This will quash stigma on the part of the boys, and the girls will learn to feel no shame in it.
Concluding a jovial narration of her experiences, Sankan’s nugget of wisdom to her peers sitting on their great ideas is rather simple. She says, “pray about your ideas, start your day with a cup of coffee – it is the social ferment of great ideas, and lastly; Just do it!”
This article was written by Francis Kabutu.
Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: email@example.com