20 April 2020

Millennium Fellow Wanjiku Cynthia Mwangi: Transform a Girl’s Life Initiative

United Nations Academic Impact and the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) are proud to partner on the Millennium Fellowship, a semester-long leadership development program that helps students design and implement community-level initiatives to promote sustainability and help others in need.

Over 7,000 young leaders on 1,209 campuses across 135 nations applied to join the Millennium Fellowship Class of 2019; 69 campuses worldwide were selected to host the 1,092 Millennium Fellows. The Class of 2019 is bold, innovative, and inclusive. Their work is projected to positively impact the lives of nearly 1 million people worldwide this year.

Wanjiku Cynthia Mwangi, a Millennium Fellow for the Class of 2019, aspires to end period poverty and to empower a new generation of women to become future leaders. Her Millennium Fellows Project focuses on SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and SDG 5: Gender Equality.

Read Wanjiku’s message about her Millennium Fellowship Project below:

My project, Transform a Girl’s Life Initiative focuses on impacting the lives of young girls from humble backgrounds. It creates awareness on menstrual hygiene products, contraception and the importance of feminine and menstrual hygiene. It also provides financial support to girls for school supplies and long-term menstrual products in a bid to end period poverty.

The project was inspired directly by the life that I have seen my people living. The area that I live in, Kwale County, is a rural region on the coast of Kenya. I grew up seeing many of my childhood friends become overwhelmed by early pregnancies and marriages. It inspired me to create an initiative focused on uplifting, educating and empowering the girls in my community.

Statistics have shown that 2 out of 3 pad users in rural Kenya received them from sexual partners and that 65% of women and girls in Kenya find sanitary products to be expensive. In some cases, women and girls are forced to resort to using leaves, pieces of cloth, cardboard, or cotton in place of pads. Furthermore, some girls are forced to miss school while menstruating due to the shame associated with their menstrual cycle.

My aim is to break this chain of shame and inaccessibility by providing menstrual products and creating awareness on this topic. Through the initiative, I provided reusable pads to 37 girls in Gwasheni Primary School, Mwavumbo sub-location, Kwale county. I was also able to create awareness on proper menstrual and feminine hygiene by illustrating to the girls how to care for their reusable pads and teaching them about the alternative menstrual hygiene products available. Thus far, I have raised $400 courtesy of the support from friends and family. However, to eradicate the stigma of menstruation and to make sure that every woman in rural Kenya has affordable access to menstrual products, the project needs continuous funding.

My advice to future fellows is to make the most of this opportunity. Put yourself out there, make as many connections as possible with Fellows who are doing similar projects. Make sure you learn as much as possible and save the notes for future use. Keep impacting the community and enjoy the process. As the late Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

To learn more about Wanjiku and support her work, visit her Millennium Fellow page or reach out to her through Instagram or email.