BY LANJI OUKO The words “period” and “menstruation”are terms our society continues to whisper and mumble. The taboo of menstruation is not an issue tackled in Africa alone, but in the Western World too. Indeed, it is rather flustering, how physical metabolic phenomena would create shame and embarrassment. So much shame, that at least three out of ten girls in remote areas miss school during their periods because of the stigmatization or lack of sanitary towels. The prejudice towards the monthly menstruation is depicted perfectly when considering the cost of a pack of sanitary towels, which is priced at Sh75. Despite the various non-governmental organizations having demonstrated for tax waivers on sanitary towels, it continues to be one of the main issues affecting the girl child. A tax waiver would significantly reduce the cost of the sanitary towels and in turn increase the accessibility. The taboo of menstruation creates a culture of silence, which explains why tax waivers on sanitary towels are issues leaders do not aggressively table. A number of organizations have tried to combat some of the negativity around periods, one of them being the‘Girl Aid Foundation’founded by Beth Waruguru. The foundation covers a broad aspect of issues affecting women, ranging from early marriage, to female genital mutilation to early pregnancy and lack of sanitary towels. Additionally, one of her main projects is centred around society seeing periods in less of a negative light.“It’s important to teach girls to see that there’s nothing shameful about menstruation. If you menstruate, having regular periods is a vital sign, like your heart rate or your blood pressure, that shows your body is working well,” she says. Euphemism and the use of coy words used to describe “periods” and “menstruation” is perfectly fine, however the crux of the matter is the stigma against women during their periods, which a number of girls list as one of the main reasons behind them skipping school. If periods had no taboo attached to it, it would be easier to discuss openly, in order to avoid the degradation of a natural body function. A number of women and men have raised a valid point in regard to the menstruation etiquette, which they believe if addressed, would indeed improve the issues of stigmatisation. Menstruation etiquette mainly tackles hygiene. Various concepts have been developed to ensure hygiene is upheld, the most recent being the introduction of Lady Grace to the local market. Lady Grace is a sanitary line, producing sanitary disposal bags. The first line is Prim by Lady Grace, a pack of 10 disposal bags which one can carry around with them in order to have the convenience of making a hygienic and responsible disposal of used feminine care products wherever (home, office, while visiting, travelling etc.). The concept is similar to pocket tissues or wet wipes. A compact and mobile product that is always in your handbag and accessible to you at your convenience. Lady Grace founded by Wangeci Kamau, 26, in 2014, is a pioneer product and the first of its kind locally. The product serves to conceal the eye sore, the foul odour and any contact with blood borne pathogens. Research has shown that the cleaning staff that encounter this kind of waste risk suffering from a range of illnesses such as eye, skin and respiratory infections. Therefore this product is considerate to both the next bathroom user and the cleaning staff where a public facility is concerned. An integral part of the business’s mission comprises of a campaign to enlighten and empower, in order to not only have a generator of income but also have an impact on lifestyle. It is difficult to move inventory when people do not know that your product exists and that you have a solution readily available to solve their problem. There can be no demand if they aren’t aware. So marketing and finding the right strategy and channels is key here and with a limited budget we cannot be as visible as would be ideal for the brand. Wangeci started out while still in employment and put out Sh50, 000 into research. After she left her job and took the project on full time, she pumped in Sh750, 000 into production and licensing among other preliminaries, which were fairly capital intensive. Educating young girls on the health and environmental risks of improper sanitary disposal currently engage the company in school tours, which largely serve as part of their community responsibility. “I run the business solely. I am not trained or experienced in this particular business. Therefore I went in head first into the unknown leaving room for fear and doubt. However as you go along you put on a brave face, learn the ropes, take more risks and grow numb to fear. The main aim of lady Grace is to ensure social education, public awareness and understanding on matters pertaining to menstruation,” said Wangeci Kamau.