KELLENSOO // ETHIOPIA
THROUGH COFFEE WE CAN EMPOWER GIRLS
Think partners with NGO to address lack of feminine-hygiene products in schools.
Over 1,500 reusable menstrual kits made and distributed by this point.
Kellensoo Women’s Center set for completion.
We began our Social Project here by performing a needs assessment of the village of Kellensoo, to find out the most pressing issues facing the community. One of the most serious issues we identified was the high rate at which female students were dropping out of school. This was due primarily to insufficient access to, or a lack of, feminine-hygiene supplies, which ultimately forced girls to stay at home and miss an entire week of school every month while on their periods.
"...GENDER DISPARITY INCREASES AT HIGHER LEVELS IN EDUCATION, WHERE THE ENROLLMENT OF ADOLESCENT GIRLS IS LOWER THAN BOYS."
To rectify this problem, in 2014 we partnered with Days for Girls, an NGO that provides rural areas with a secure supply of feminine-hygiene products via the purchase and distribution of resuable kits. With each visit to Ethiopia, we would bring more than 200 of these kits. But because of high demand, the model quickly proved unsustainable, and we needed a different approach. In 2016 we decided to teach students at the local secondary school how to make reusable kits on their own. It was our belief--and the belief of the elders of the community--that by purchasing materials and having students engage with the project, we could distribute more kits, more quickly, providing tangible results. But come the following year, we learned that the amount of kits being made had reduced significantly: administrators needed to prioritize the curriculum when they had students in the classroom. At the same time, as students would graduate, our lead kit maker would have to train new students on how to make kits. She couldn’t keep up.
We returned in 2017 with the hope of finding a solution. After speaking with the elders of the community, we decided it was best to move kit production out of the school to a space where we could involve women of the community. In 2018, construction began on the Kellensoo Women’s Center. During this process, we continued to distribute kits to girls at both the primary and secondary schools. By the end of 2018, 1,500 girls had received a feminine-hygiene kit. On our most recent visits, throughout 2019, we sought ways in which the Center could be used as more than just a production space. Gradually we learned that in order to make this project succeed, we would need to create an environment where girls could also be educated about feminine hygiene. Thus, the Center will function as a space where girls can receive feminine-hygiene kits, but also as a safe space where they can build confidence through education. Local nurses and educators will give lectures on how to properly use these kits, and provide reading materials so girls can learn about their periods and how to lead the world feeling empowered.
Because of COVID restrictions, we have been unable to visit Ethiopia but have been in contact with our partners at origin throughout the pandemic. Everyone’s focus has been to keep each other safe and look forward to the day when we can visit all the farmers and their families.
Our hope is by the end of the year, we can pick up where we left off and can continue our important work there.
Enrique returns to Ethiopia to check on the progress of the women's center and finds that they are almost complete. During this trip, he interviews a woman from the community who could potentially oversee this project and the women's center once construction is done. He also get's the opportunity to meet over 1,500 farmers during a pre-harvest gathering/training. Having so many farmers gathered in one space at one time is often rare and it was truly a special and rewarding moment for Enrique. Not only do they provide our delicious coffee but these are the mothers and fathers of the girls we help empower with our feminine hygiene project.
Enrique was planning on returning to Ethiopia in June to follow the progress of construction in person but due to civil unrest, he has postponed his trip until it is safe to travel. Our partners and the farmers and their families are all well in Kellensoo. Construction is nearly complete and the project is on schedule.
Enrique returns to Addis and purchases all the construction materials for the Women’s Center. Lacy, from Think Coffee arrives and they head to Kellensoo to meet the contractor and get final approval from the elders of the community to construct. The project is approved by the community and the land is measured and prepped for construction. Enrique and Lacy distribute more menstrual kits to the primary and high school but also conduct surveys to help get an idea of what to expect when the center is complete. Empowering girls at a young age is important and we want to be ready and have the necessary materials, resources, and education so they can feel empowered throughout their education and well into their future.
Enrique travels to Ethiopia to touch base with our point person at Nardos Exports. He isn’t able to go to Kellensoo due to protests occurring on the road from Addis Ababa to Kellensoo, but he and Biniam outline next steps for the project. Construction of the Kellensoo Women’s Center is set to begin within the next few months and Enrique will come back for another visit to Kellensoo in March.
Noah and Enrique travel to Ethiopia to distribute kits. For the past two years, with limited resources and a constant student turn-around, our menstrual kits trainer, Halaka was having difficulty continuing with the project. Sewing machines were not easy to use and she was always training new students on how to make the kits for distribution. There wasn’t enough time and focus on making these kits. We decided to investigate further and find a new way to get these kits made. After speaking with community leaders and organizers, we have come up with a new plan to construct a facility within the city center of Kellensoo where full-time staff will spend every day making these kits for all girls enrolled in school and for the daughters of over 1,300 farmers. We are looking at over 3,000 potential kits. Once we get the approval from the community to construct the new Menstrual Health Center in Kellensoo, construction will begin and kits will be made!
1,000 girls have received pad kits. Think Coffee, Nardos Exports, and Days for Girls conduct a week long sexual health and hygiene course with a group of volunteer students in Kellensoo. At this program, the students are taught how to make kits to distribute themselves.
Think representatives travel to Ethiopia, bringing back a laptop to install in the library.
760 girls have received feminine hygiene products and the library is now fully operational; the community had hired a full-time librarian to replace the former director of education.
East Side District Manager, Lacy Lancaster, travels to Ethiopia to bring laptops to the library, but finds that it had been locked and was not being used. Because of this, we delay starting the second phase of our project and bring the laptops back to New York.
Think sends the first batch of feminine hygiene products to Kellensoo.
Construction of the library is completed.
Our project begins with a needs assessment of the village. Thinks sends representative, Emily Piper, to Kellensoo to direct construction of the library; Piper buys 10 tables, 50 chairs, 2 large bookshelves, and 437 books for the library.