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Giving girls the confidence to learn

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Access to affordable sanitary pads plays a key role in deciding whether Kenyan girls gain an education. Jody Soh is helping to make sure they don't miss out on school.

Each year 860,000 Kenyan girls miss more than a month of school because they don't have sanitary pads. Alarmingly, 65% of girls drop out of school altogether for this same reason.

"It's a huge problem but people never think about it because we take things like sanitary pads for granted," says Jody Soh, Marketing and Communications Officer with ZanaAfrica in Kenya.

ZanaAfrica is an innovative social enterprise that's not only aware of the problem, but working hard to address it through health education and the manufacture of affordable sanitary pads. Jody is working with them through the Australian Volunteers for International Development program, an AusAID initiative.

She is behind the new branding and website for ZanaAfrica, which will enable the organisation to better engage with the young girls who benefit from its programs as well as current and potential donors.

Jody has also worked with partners and donors to launch a mobile phone app to coordinate and map sanitary pad distribution and helped to establish The Sisterhood Project, which will connect schools in the United States with schools in Kibera slum.

"This will provide a safe space for Kenyan girls to receive much-needed health education, build confidence and skills, and for girls on both sides to engage in cultural exchange," Jody says.

Although hers is a back-office role, Jody has discovered that effective marketing is critical to helping ZanaAfrica make a difference on the ground.

Her most recent work provides a fitting example. She has overseen ZanaAfrica's Pad Giveaway Challenge, which will provide 7600 girls across Kenya with underwear and pad supplies for the rest of the year.

Now 7600 of those girls will have the confidence to attend school every day - an outcome well worth the work behind the scenes.


Photo: ZanaAfrica believes that investing in girls' education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. (Australian Red Cross/Glen Smith)