I’m back from Kenya…did you follow my trip? If you did, first of all, thank you for coming to witness a tiny bit of my experience of Beauty Heroes in Kenya. If you didn’t, we’ve added all of my posts from Saalt x BH as a Highlight on Instagram.
The 12-day itinerary involved much more than the main event, which was to support Danielle Burden, Saalt’s Director of Impact, as she educated rural Kenyan women and girls on the transformative power of the menstrual cup. I also participated in a women’s day for widows and guardians of orphans, hosted by Outreach to the World (OWI). We celebrated at a day-long birthday party for the orphans, visited a free medical clinic that was open to the entire city of Kitale, and spent time at Sister Freda’s Medical Center and girls school, a day I’ll never forget.
Needless to say, there’s absolutely no way I can share the full experience in one blog post. I have never been on a trip that was solely dedicated to social impact and service so I wasn’t expecting the lessons and gifts that came from it. The most remarkable experience was realizing that when we’re in service, we end up receiving so much more than we give.
Pass The Saalt
Saalt distributed 500 menstrual cups to women, girls, and even curious men, of all ages. What struck me the most was how the stigma and shame around menstruation has a negative trickle-down effect throughout the entire community. Not only do girls regularly miss school, have a difficult time accessing supplies in public and endure harassment and embarrassment, but the lack of education keeps important health conversations closeted, and also leads to dire environmental impact. Under the masterful guidance of the Saalt team however, within just a few days, the discussion of menstruation became very normal, almost like dinner table conversation. And this is critical for Saalt because the adoption of menstrual cups requires education, support and encouragement. Saalt understands this very well and came prepared with tools to teach the guardians and nursing students how to support other women in transitioning to the cup. Normalizing the conversation around menstruation is so healthy and liberating for women. And this is the greatest impact Saalt is making with their platform: a sense of liberation and lessening of a burden, financially, socially and practically.
One of the highlights of the trip was when Jennifer, a guardian who received a Saalt cup last year, shared with the group how the cup had changed her life. She went on and on about it with enthusiasm as if it was a secret gift she wanted all her friends to have. In her sharing, I recognized something in myself: we shared the same level of enthusiasm for the Saalt cup. And, while the cup is way more impactful on her life than it is on mine, we both experienced it as a form of liberation. I instantly felt connected to all women, from every walk of life and it confirmed what I already knew: that a Saalt cup can be transformational, for me, for you, for all menstruators.
Sister Freda and Aunt Flow
Sister Freda’s Hospital exists to take care of the most marginalized communities in rural Africa. By combining sound medicine with a mother’s love, Sister Freda is the Florence Nightingale of Kitale. At Sister Freda’s hospital and school, they operate on a private compound with their own water and sewer system. The impact that menstrual products have on their ecosystem was brought up, and I was so happy that it was because that impact is invisible to us in fully developed countries. All we know is that everything goes down the drain and we never have to think about it again. That is not how it works in developing countries. Everything that goes down the drain needs to be dealt with, and it is challenging. So, the positive impact that Saalt cups make on their sewer system is very noticeable, bringing to light that everything we use, even things deemed a necessity, impact our environment. So it goes without saying, that if you transition, and help others transition, to a Saalt cup, you are living lighter. And, if you were faced with the same challenges of septic and sewage systems that most areas of Kenya are faced with, you wouldn’t think twice about it.
Greatest Lessons Learned
The social impact of helping others who really need help is the ultimate reward, and I realized that I got so much more than I gave. This truly humbling realization led me to another aha moment: our capacity to serve is endless. I witnessed this seemingly bottomless reserve of selfless energy from the Saalt team, Sister Freda and the team of OWI. And, while my focus was to see Danielle and Saalt through their two educational events, getting to participate in all the activities OWI brings to the community during their annual service trip left me recharged, inspired and grateful. While I cannot summarize the life-changing impact this trip had on me, I can share some of the most potent lessons learned; ones that I intend to deepen and cultivate both personally and professionally.
- Period care is not just a woman’s issue.
- Proper period care, especially in period poor communities, can have a significant financial, social and environmental impact on the entire community.
- Menstrual education and open dialogue about women’s reproductive health in period-poor communities has the power to transform – and save – lives.
- When boys and men are educated, they can help remove the societal stigma.
- Normalizing period care and bringing the conversation to communities around the globe is healthy, liberating and necessary.
- When it comes to period care, there are no “stupid questions”. Misinformation about menstruation is often what perpetuates stigmas.
- When it comes to our periods, we really are all the same.