In 2013, 21-year-old Kenyan entrepreneur Barclay Paul Okari noticed problems caused by the unavailability of sanitary pads for teenage girls in the rural settlements of Western Kenya, Eastern Uganda and Southern Sudan. So, he decided to make a product that was half the market price of commercial sanitary pads on the market.
His product, Safi Pads, are made from soft locally-available materials and is washable and reusable. His brilliant invention now affords access to cheap, clean and safe sanitary protection for thousands of young women in his country and neighboring regions. The pads enable girls to attend school during their periods, improving their school performance and as a result, their long-term economic outcomes.
Making an impact on Africa
Okari sells the pad kits through an organization that he started called Impact Africa Industries (www.impactafricaindustries.com) that seeks to empower young girls and women by giving them not just affordable sanitary pad kits, but also to help support their continued education.
The organization has caught the attention from other non-profits around the world, and they have donated more than $18,000 in funding to support his initiatives and increase production.
How he got started
When Okari was attending the University of Nairobi in 2011, he volunteered to teach at a Girls’ High School in Narok, a small town in south-western Kenya, to boost his resume and improve his future job prospects. While at the school, however, he discovered that many of the girls were repeatedly missed classes because they could not afford the regular sanitary pads manufactured by large consumer goods companies.
So, he decided to explore the possibility of offering a cheaper, commercially viable alternative to regular sanitary pads. He took a $1,500 loan from his parents and set out to develop Safi Pads.
A very successful business idea
To date, his organization, Impact Africa Industries, has sold and distributed more than 1 million of these pads to low-income women across rural Kenya and Uganda. In addition, the company has created jobs – employing more than 30 local men and women to produce the pads.
Okari was also a finalist for the 2013 Anzisha Prize, a pan-African award sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation and the African Leadership Academy that rewards outstanding young African entrepreneurs.
Okari can be contacted at email@example.com