The team at SDG Changemakers is proud to work with the founders of AfriReuse. A social enterprise, run by and for the indigenous women of west Pokot in Kenya, it provides skills and work opportunities to girls and women fleeing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In turn, the fabric reusable dignity packs they produce are helping to address period poverty and stigma and create more environmentally-friendly solutions.
We look in-depth at their innovative model for sustainable funding and increased impact to improve the lives of girls and women and their wider communities.
Working together to create opportunities for women and girls
Every girl said that if they had access to pads, the biggest impact to their lives would be that they could stay on in school. Paula Robinson, UK Midwife and Co-Founder of AfriReuse
AfriReuse was co-founded in 2020 by a UK-based midwife, Paula Robinson and a Kenyan nurse and counsellor, Everlyne Prech.
Paula was visiting west Pokot in Kenya as part of the long-standing partnership between the UK charity, Beyond FGM and the Kenyan Community Based Organisation, the Centre for Indigenous Child Rights where Everlyne is CEO.
That collaboration is itself a story of innovation and inspiration. Beyond FGM was founded by Cumbrian midwife Cath Holland who had worked as a volunteer there supporting women and girls in childbirth. She witnessed the shocking levels of FGM and built a programme working with communities, and with midwives and traditional birth attendants.
To date, they have supported well over 6000 girls to move beyond FGM, to stay in education, and to understand their rights. These girls have also been saved from forced and early child "marriage" and the team from CICR deliver workshops in schools and community settings.
The founding of AfriReuse is a new chapter in this extraordinary story.
From Charity to Social Enterprise: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
I am optimistic our vision will continue to help young women gain skills and economic empowerment. By providing sanitary pads, we can break the cycle of poverty in my home, West Pokot. Everlyne Prech, CEO of CICR and Co-Founder of AfriReuse
In 2020, CICR was facing increased numbers of girls being cut and period poverty., with girls resorting to makeshift solutions for their periods and many simply not turning up to school during their periods.
Keeping girls in school is widely recognised as one of the most effective ways to increase gender equity and to reduce instances of forced and early marriage, pregnancy and also practices like FGM.
Paula and Everlyne came up with the idea of a social enterprise creating opportunities for girls and women, addressing period poverty and its implications, and returning ALL its profits to support the work of the CICR.
The fabric dignity kits last for up to 4 years and are designed to be effective and sustainable solutions to the national and global commitments to ending period poverty.
The girls and women who produce them are trained to be tailors and can support themselves and their families.
Finally, the profits also deliver greater capacity for work combatting FGM - Kenya has committed to ending FGM by the end of 2022 in advance of the 2030 Global Goal. The rationale is compelling and it is the brainchild of women working together to come up with innovative solutions for the girls and women who have little choice in their lives.
How does the SDG Changemakers team support AfriReuse?
The astonishing women behind Beyond FGM, CICR and AfriReuse approached us in late 2020 for support on their funding and communications strategy. By this stage, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were starting to be clear - international funding was drying up and there were soaring increases in the numbers of girls being cut, dropping out of school, and unable to access sanitary ware for their periods.
We developed a special set of workshops for the team in both the UK and Kenya - we understand that time is precious and that resources are scarce, so we focused on how to maximise branding, communications and funding options with limited time and finance.
We also produced an organisational review that identified the critical importance and potential for the social enterprise not only delivering on its purpose but also generating resources for the broader work.
Since then, we have been working to develop a strong impact investment offering, with advice and input from Natalie and Ionna, members of the Swiss network Giving Women.
We will be supporting the team to secure investment for AfriReuse to scale and ultimately to establish a new integrated health centre, safe house, workshop and productive kitchen garden to provide hope, safety and opportunity for women in West Pokot.
Give a girl a chance: change her life
Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about either supporting the work of AfriReuse or if your organisation is looking for advice on how to create a sustainable and purpose-driven enterprise.
In this decade of action, knowing where to start on your sustainability journey can be a challenge. But we firmly believe that businesses of all sizes can make the journey. To learn more about what SDG Changemakers do and how we support organisations like yours, get in touch.