In rural communities in Zimbabwe, characterized by ill equipped sanitation and deeply embedded stigmas, girls can miss up to 25% of schooling due to menstruation. When Elephant’s Eye, Hwange was asked to help the adolescent girls of Dingani Primary School, Project Penya was born. The goal was to empower Dingani’s grade 6 girls with a sustainable solution for coping with menstruation thus enabling them to secure their future through the completion of their education.
Project Penya raised five times more funds than anticipated, allowing for the distribution of award winning Subz washable panties and pads to twice the original number of girls. It also allowed us to support the school with a 3-day life-skills workshop. This empowered and motivated the girls to remain in school with resulting implications for their education, self-confidence and future.
Project Penya is now engaging with the community to produce the washable pads locally, this is an even more sustainable and eco-friendly option. Not only does it empower the local women of the Thandanani Project to create a product that is in demand from the community, now that the products are being made locally it cuts down on the carbon footprint of transporting the Subz products from South Africa and keeps the money and supply chain in the country. We have trained the local women of the Dete community in the Thandanani Project to make the re-usable pads themselves. The Thandanani Project is a self-sustaining business that the local women who have basic skills in sewing and entrepreneurial ambitions have started. They are a group of ten enterprising women, aged 22-61, that came together in Dete in 2009 with nothing more than 3 sewing machines and a focused plan to work together to raise finances to start a sustainable business.
They happily made their first sales in September 2012 and have been growing from strength to strength ever since. By involving another group of the community in the production of the pads we have given ownership and symbiosis to two marginalized groups to continue this initiative. The Thandanani Sewing Project now has a constant demand for the product, providing a steady income that is based on local support and not only influenced by foreign travellers.