There are many problems that young girls out there have and one of them is getting pads during their periods. There are many issues surrounding a girl’s periods, lack of affordable pads can lead to girls not attending school because of shame, etc. This leads to girls missing an average of 3 school days per month. Also lack of hygienic alternatives can lead to girls getting infections. This is such a serious issue that concerned citizens have successfully lobbied the government to provide pads for girls in public schools.
Florence Kamaitha saw a gap and decided to do something about it. She has a company called pad heaven that converts banana stems into sanitary pads. Pad Heaven has come up with a method of producing sanitary pads from left-over banana stems. This product is both biodegradable, environmentally friendly and creates jobs for some women in prison.
Pad Heaven aims to empower young girls by reducing the number of girls dropping out of school because of menstrual issues. It also creates jobs for other women. I think this is a good definition of a business that embodies Twaweza, of people coming together to create something great that benefits the community.
I caught up with Kamaitha who is an award winning entrepreneur to find out more about the Pad Heaven.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Kamaitha and what do you do?
I like to think of myself as a change maker and a girl champion. My work revolves around empowering women and girls around the country. I run a social enterprise called Pad Heaven which manufacturers where we produce low-cost sanitary pads. I have also written books on menstrual hygiene. I also run a business blog where I share tips on entrepreneurship. I also teach upcoming entrepreneurs on running a business and speak to girls in schools on reproductive health.
How did your company start?
I just happened to be in a school where girls missed a lot of school days due to lack of sanitary pads, and I decided to do something about it.
Why Pads? Did you always picture getting into this line of work?
Commercial sanitary pads are expensive and I thought we must have cheaper options for women. I always knew I would get into a manufacturing business but I never thought it would be pads.
So far, have you seen the vision that you had set out for Pad Heaven take off?
Yes, we have been able to distribute at least 5,000 sanitary pads to girls and women through organizations. We have also taught women inmates how to make the sanitary pads and this has enabled them to get some stipend while still in prison. We also employ ex-inmates, enabling them to get back into the society and earn a living.
How many people work for you?
What made you decide to work with prisoners?
I realized that some prisoners can leave prison without a single shilling. Many prisoners are in prison because of unemployment. They lack skills and education to earn a living and they end up committing petty offences that land them in prison.
However, if you teach them a skill, teach them how to manage money, and pay them for their work, they can afford to save for their release, and start life with some form of capital and a skill. This reduces re-offense greatly.
On your twitter bio it says that you are a socialpreneur? What does that mean to you?
Running a business that is for profit but its sole purpose is to impact the lives of other.
Do you get people to help you out in sourcing and executing the ideas for your projects?
Yes, I have a team of advisors
What are some of the biggest and most memorable moments of padheaven so far?
Employing two ex-inmates who we trained while they were in prison.
What are some of the ups and down you’ve faced in your business?
Lack of materials is one. So, we have to outsource from China and that has its own challenges.
We also work with a lot of NGOs and there are days when there are no purchases, especially around this election period.
Do you have any other side businesses or personal ventures apart from Pad Heaven?
Yes, I run a business blog for women. I am also starting an agribusiness venture soon.
Where do you see yourself as a company in the next ten years?
Travelling the world while exporting my products all over the world.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to be social entrepreneurs?
You need to really have a passion for that cause. It has to mean something to you, as there are days that are heavier than others, and you will need that one reason to continue pushing.
So how are you using your business to change the community?