Mary Nyaruai, Founder, and Stella Maina, Head of Operations

01. Describe the problem/industry you want to intervene on.

New Africa was born out of two great needs. Firstly, to bridge the period poverty gap in Kenya and secondly, to provide access to safe and environmentally friendly period products.

According to USAID, 65% of women and girls in Kenya they cannot afford sanitary products due to poverty. Unfortunately, as a result, some girls have to trade sex for pads which could contribute to Kenya being the country with the third highest number of teenage pregnancies. Others are forced to use unsanitary products such as rags, newspapers, cardboard, feathers, and practices such as digging holes during menstruation. For those who do have access to sanitary pads most leave behind a huge waste load during their menstrual years with some complaining of irritation, itching, and rashes from the plastic and chemicals used to make the pads which have dire consequences for their health. and also for the environment. Life Cycle Assessment of tampons launched by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm found that the biggest impact is global warming The processing of LDPE (low-density polyethylene, a thermoplastic made from ethylene monomer) used in tampon applicators and the plastic back strip of sanitary napkins requires large amounts of fossil fuel-generated energy that takes centuries to date. decomposes.

Nyungu Afrika’s mission is to create a sustainable and lasting impact to solve these problems by leveraging the circular economy, technology and supply chain to convert underutilized agricultural waste pineapple leaves and corn husk fibers into period products safe and eco-friendly.

By addressing these needs we will help address the following five UN SDG goals:

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable high quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

Aim 12: To ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

02. How did the idea to create a company come to mind? How was your team?

As a menstruating woman, it was extremely difficult to find period products that understood my needs during menstruation, an experience that is still shared by thousands of women and girls. In 2019, a viral hashtag on Kenyan Twitter started a conversation about women in Kenya and Africa experiencing irritation, itching and rashes from using existing sanitary pad brands. In the same year, a 14-year-old student committed suicide after allegedly being embarrassed by her teacher for starting her period in class.

It was out of this pain and the need for better, that Mary Nyaruai teamed up with a renowned materials scientist to find a local solution that happens to be something Nyaruai grew up seeing and eating in Thika, the pineapple capital of Kenya. The team has since expanded to include Stella Maina as the Head of Operations who worked with Nyaruai in the banking industry for a cumulative six years before stepping down. Together, they are supported by a growing team of advisors, counselors, friends, and partners who pour their heart and soul into their vision.

03. Why did you choose to participate in the paris Techstars accelerator program? What are you looking forward to the most?

We chose Techstars because we are aligned with their goal, To Help Entrepreneurs Succeed!

Our company wants to succeed in tackling many big challenges that affect more than half of the world’s population and cross-cutting areas such as human and environmental rights, stigma, economic empowerment, agency, public health, gender equality, education, and sustainability in Kenya. and after that, and with that, we need big muscles like Techstars to help us succeed in creating a sustainable and lasting impact.

We look forward to taking advantage of funding opportunities, workshops, resources, and most importantly access to the best mentors and corporate partners. Through the Techstars network and a structured program, we will be applying all of our learning and experiences to the startup. The best part is that Techstars is a startup and founder-friendly lifelong partnership with you through the highs and lows in this marathon we call entrepreneurship that we are proud to be a part of.

04. Which people are you most proud of in your initial journey with your company?

I have the courage to step into my activism and use my voice to change the way menstruation and women’s health in general are viewed. Second, it is the community of allies, friends, family, and partner organizations that were built around Nyungu Africa and were on hand to hold us when it all started and still do to this day. Finally it is the pride and deep sense of purpose that we felt from the farmers, the youth and the women while doing research and development so far.

05. How do you plan to measure the positive impact of your company in the next 5 years? A question focused on the environment.

Menstruation Health Management is an environmental and public health issue that we can no longer ignore. With emerging trends in sustainability and public pressure for environmentally friendly products, we are in a great position to create and measure positive impact on the environment.

We aim to do this in three ways:

  1. Reducing CO2 emissions through the use of low carbon technology, upgrading pineapple waste and corn husks, and resource efficiency.

  2. Summarize how much single-use plastic products we’ll prevent from ending up in the environment by women switching to our eco-friendly period products

  3. Reducing the environmental footprint by optimizing the value and supply chain

For the latest news on our application, please visit our page.

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