The clothing company has joined together with SOKO Community Trust to form the Kujuwa Initiative. Fabric scraps from ASOS’s Made in Kenya collection will be used to make reusable, washable sanitary pads, all produced by local seamstresses. This particular collection has been praised for encompassing cultural appreciation instead of appropriation.
The line is heavily inspired by Kenyan landscapes and does more than just provide a platform for appreciation of the beautiful country. In their dedication to giving back, ASOS “employs local factory workers and pays them living wages, operates a local stitching academy for girls, provides financial literacy training, funds primary and elementary schools, and supplies eye-care, sanitary napkins, and rain catchers for clean drinking water.”
The pads will be included in a kit that also contains two pairs of cotton briefs, a bar of soap, and a washbag. The pads can be used for up to three years. The Kujuwa Initiative also plans on providing health education to young women and is attempting to install water tanks and toilets in local African schools through the WASH project.
The stigma surrounding menstruation for African women and girls has resulted in a variety of challenges. According to Lebogang Keolebogile Maruapula, a Botswana native who is the co-founder of the GODDESS Foundation, the topic of menstruation is almost taboo.
She stated in an article published to the World Economic Forum, “Growing up in Botswana, the topic of periods was always spoken of in hushed tones. The older women around us would treat it as a secret, something to be spoken about with other women only. Women whisper about it and men distance themselves from it. We called it Aunty Flo or the visitor – anything other than what it actually was. In fact, to hear someone say the word ‘menstruation’ could cause shudders of embarrassment.”
This stigma towards such a crucial topic has resulted in restrictions for African women and a lack of availability in terms of menstruation products. According to Maruapula’s article, menstruating girls are prevented from taking part in activities such as cooking, praying, and going to school, which undoubtedly results in young women viewing themselves negatively.
Additionally, women in Africa are unable to afford sanitary products. 65 percent of women in Kenya are unable to afford pads, forcing them to use items such as cotton or mattress stuffing when they are menstruating, which can lead to infections. With families earning less than two dollars a day, it is unlikely that menstruation products are prioritized as highly as food.
ASOS’s decision to team up with SOKO Community Trust to provide for young African women is both timely and necessary. With women being unable to have easy access to the menstruation products they need, intervention by large companies such as ASOS with the means to give back is the right thing to do.
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