Lulu Said Ameir
The Bela project /Bela Vendor is an innovative project resulted from mensural hygiene problem experienced by most adolescent girls in the city of Dar-es-salaam. The project started in April 2017 having won Innovation Award under the theme Empowering Citizens (Gender and Social Development) in the Local Impact Innovation Challenge (DLIIC). Based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the project focused on goals 3, 4, 5 & 6. Goal 3 being Good Health and Well-being, Goal 4 is Quality Education followed by Goal 5 which is for Gender Equality and Goal 6 which strives for sustainability within the sector of Clean Water and Sanitation.
The objectives of the project were and still are two-fold; first to provide education about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) to adolescent girls and young ladies and secondly to provide them with a service that provides easy but also convenient access to good, quality and affordable sanitary pads by installing sanitary pads vending machines in various places. However, at the initial stage, the project is mostly targeting students from secondary schools to universities. In this regard, in 2018 Bela vendor started working with 5 secondary schools in Dar es Salaam namely: – Jangwani, Tambaza, Tungi, Chang’ombe and Mikocheni.
It conducted awareness education about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) to students in those schools as well as training on use of Bela Vendor installed in respective schools. The project managed to achieve 60 percent awareness creation and 40 percent Bela Vendor usage. Hence, the project has, as confessed by many students, reduced the rate of girls’ absenteeism in those schools by at least 5 percent. It was evident that inaccessibility of sanitary pads within households, schools and work places increases girls and young ladies absenteeism in schools.
From 2017-2019, Bela Vendor has made good strides in increasing its visibility in the public through active participation in different socio-economic activities particularly in health & entrepreneurship programs and awarded certificates of recognition of its contribution.
In 2018 Bela Vendor team had the opportunity to participate in a program called Youth Entrepreneurs in Health Initiatives sponsored by Raleigh Tanzania which was held in Morogoro region. The program focused on 7 best selected businesses that were introduced to Novartis international leaders who assisted us on planning, managing and monitoring our products and businesses. The program was a 10 day workshop and different activities that would bind together for better accomplishments.
During the workshop, the team and the selected Novartis leaders were taken to remote areas of Morogoro region to see the state of schools and understand how difficult it is for girls to access sanitary pads. Indeed, to learn and witness how menstrual health as it is still a taboo in some remote areas. Through this experience, we saw the true problems young adolescent girls are facing and increased our enthusiasm to help them. At the end of the program, we were awarded with certification of participating. Since Raleigh Tanzania have programs of building modern washroom in rural areas, it’s a good opportunity for us to join forces with them and install Bela vendor machines.
In 2018, our project received a huge boost as it was invited to participate in a project known as “SAUTI YA BINTI” which was funded by US Embassy in Tanzania in collaboration with female entrepreneurs on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). The project aimed at empowering 400 less privileged girls in 4 public secondary schools in Dar-es-Salaam through educating them on puberty, good menstrual hygiene management and equip those schools with learning resources and sanitary pads dispenser machines which will enable girls to easily access reusable or disposable pads at a subsidized cost.
The SAUTI YA BINTI team consists of five Tanzanian businesswomen dedicated business models that provide affordable menstrual health options to Tanzanian women/girls while addressing social and educational concerns. These are Hyasinta Ntukenyo founder of Glory sanitary pads, Jennifer Shigoli founder of ELEA reusable pads, Eva Mkane founder of MEMA Tanzania and Beatrice Kinemba founder of Binti Huru Initiative. SAUTI YA BINTI project was launched in September 2018 and we have successfully completed the project.