Community Spotlight: Lorraine Nyanchoka
By: Naseem Kapdi
The impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and COVID-19 is no exception. We’re seeing how this pandemic has exposed and exploited pre-existing inequalities - especially for women. As with most things in life, the needs of women and girls are often neglected, and in this case, menstruation needs. Pads or sanitary napkins are a necessity. Menstruation doesn’t stop, not even for a pandemic.
At a summer mentor meetup, I learned about Lorraine Nyanchoka’s powerful work in Kenya. Through her charity, Imani Giving, she is working on providing menstruating products to girls in her community. She started this initiative in 2019 and is continuing her efforts despite the many obstacles she’s facing in a pandemic. She knows there is much change to be made and providing sanitary napkins is only a temporary solution.
“Periods happen every month,” Lorraine pointed out, “you can’t tell it not to come one month and to come another month.”
After researching other options, she found reusable napkins as a potential option since they can last 14 months. Girls can save the money they would’ve spent on napkins towards purchasing these sustainable and cost-effective napkins. This issue has become more important as many girls have been exchanging sex for sanitary napkins.
“Sanitary napkins should never be sold,” Lorraine argued, and “it is a basic need and should be free or at minimum cost.”
Making this change is the one thing she would like to do to transform the world.
To accomplish this, Lorraine has actively written grant proposals to obtain funding to support her community. Even though funding is limited, she hasn’t stopped working to finance her vision. Undeterred, she poured her efforts into a 2-month fundraising campaign as well as collecting further donations from well-wishers to buy reusable sanitary napkins in bulk at a reduced cost. She plans to distribute them in late November as she strategizes a delivery plan. Getting the napkins in the hands of the community is further made difficult due to access. Infrastructure in certain areas in Kenya is lacking or failing which makes it challenging to get to. Even with all the unexpected obstacles that have come up, Lorraine is determined to help. She says, “Be patient and trust in the process” and “celebrate small wins and be proud, don’t give up.”
To learn more about Lorraine, follow her on Instagram @nyanaro.lorraine