David and Stephanie Clark founders of African Talent Initiative . Courtesy photos
After learning that many girls in Rwanda miss school for around 15 days in a semester because they can’t afford sanitary pads during their menstruation, David and Stephanie Clark, an African-American couple decided to be part of the solution.
In July 2021, they started African Talent Initiative, a company that aspires to become a Non-Governmental Organisation, with an aim to empower women and youth to be change makers with the initial focus of eradicating period poverty in Rwanda.
The initiative was officially launched in Rwanda on September 24, and seeks to expand its operation to neighbouring East African countries.
According to Divine Akimana, the Director of Operations at Africa Talent Initiative/Love Center which is located in Gasabo District, near Kacyiru taxi park, they make and donate reusable feminine sanitary pads and kitenge bags to low income girls and women.
She said that a bag includes five pads, but they are willing to increase them to eight, adding that they also provide their beneficiaries with liquid and hard soaps as well as menstrual education and hygiene tips.
At their workplace, Love Centre, they also feature local artists and give them a platform to showcase their talents. According to Akimana, the artists donate 20% to the organisation resulting from the sales of their products.
Their progress and challenges so far “The organisation has so far donated to around 600 school girls in different districts of Rwanda including Nyanza, Kicukiro, Gasabo and Bugesera,” said Akimana.
She shared that when selecting beneficiaries, they release an announcement and contact schools – looking for people in need of their services, adding that the pads are made from cotton cloth, towel materials and other absorbants.
Currently, their challenge is that some people don’t realise the need for eradicating period poverty which limits them from donating to their initiative.
However, she hopes they will understand as the organisation keeps raising awareness and seeks to reach out to all low-income girls in every district of Rwanda, revisit those they have donated to and expand its operations to East Africa.
Beneficiaries speak out
Emelitta Niyomufasha, a resident in Busasamana Sector, Nyanza District said that before African Talent Initiative reached out to her, she would cut her worn out ‘kitenge’ into small layers and use them during her menstruation period because she couldn’t afford sanitary pads and would hardly get soap.
She said that the pads given to her are more comfortable and good enough for her since she can wash them, expose them to sunshine and keep them for reuse.
Artists painting tire chairs at Love center.
“I can even carry them in a bag when I go for a journey. They are flexible and good-looking. I no longer get ashamed like back in the days when I was using the small layers of old kitenge,” she said.
Liliane Tuyizere who makes pads at the Love Center said that they can make 300 per day, adding that working from there has boosted her love for arts due to interacting with different artists.
She declared that she values her work and gets satisfied when they donate pads to girls and see them displaying happy and grateful faces.
Christian Nyirigira, an artist who also works at the center, does drawing and painting from recycled materials such as bottles – and produces artworks out of them.
He said that the platform gave him a job and increased his knowledge, money and good friends.
He is currently working with other artists in organising painting events and they are planning to train people who wish to learn.
Divine Akimana and her colleague during sanitary pad donation event at G.S Nzove in Rwamagana District .