Her empathy set her apart from the rest
When Covid-19 pandemic hit its peak and schools were indefinitely closed, girls from low income families within Mombasa and Kilifi counties were faced with another tragedy—no access to sanitary pads. These are girls who relied heavily on donations.
This was the same for girls from Utange, Mombasa, where Beata Mbula lived. Her community work during that time was focused around Kilifi County, but movement restrictions across counties had also been effected, so she could not access her area of work. Knowing the challenges that the young girls were facing during the time, she decided to start an initiative to help distribute sanitary pads within her community. That is how ‘Reasons to Smile’ Community based Organisation was born.
“I remember around that time, someone had gifted me a big box of sanitary towels. I knew these could really go a long way for the girls, but I did not know how best to distribute them, especially with all the restrictions. We had girls in the neighbourhood, some who we had grown very close and they would sometimes come and ask me for sanitary towels. There were those who used to get the sanitary towels from schools, but when schools were indefinitely closed, they had no access to pads. I was like, ‘why not start something that would enable me help these girls.’ I mobilised 60 girls from my community and started a drive for sanitary towels, which supported the girls through the whole Covid-19 period until schools reopened,” she shares. Reasons to Smile CBO, has today grown to become a pillar for menstrual hygiene empowerment in Mombasa and Kilifi Counties.
As she intimates, her husband and father of their two children, Abel Bosire was her greatest motivator in the starting of this initiative.
“I had the dream, but I was yet to start its implementation. He is the one that really ignited the fire in me,” shares the community champion.
Speaking about his wife’s passion to give back to the community, Abel shares how this is one of the things about Beata that made him know she was ‘The one’.
“I noticed that she had a passion for community service of which I also had. When we were dating, there is this day she requested we visit a children’s home around where we were staying. I noticed that she was passionate about this, and since it was in line with her practice, I started pushing her to start an initiative that would make her work directly with the community,” shares Abel.
Beata worked in the hotel industry before joining an organisation in Kilifi County that was carrying out interventions to end teenage pregnancies. It was during this time that she also thought of starting an initiative that would enable her reach out to young girls. This passion to help young girls stemmed from her own experiences growing up.
“During my teenage, I had no information on menstruation. No one sat me down to tell me anything about menstruation. I remember my dad buying me a roll of cotton wool when I was joining secondary school, yet no one told me what it was for. I started my menses when I was in Form Three, and the girls in my dormitory were so excited for me for this transition into womanhood. This really made me realise how important and a part of life menstruation is for all girls, it’s something we can’t get away from,” she shares.
As Abel intimates, volunteering at Kwacha Africa, Mombasa went a long way in sharpening Beata’s skills before she started reaching out to schools and communities as a facilitator. Kwacha Africa aims at inspiring and empowering youths to transform themselves and their communities. Kwacha Afrika is an indigenous coastal phrase which means Arise Afrika
Through her activities, she met Diana Butler, an Austrian woman who introduced herself as ‘someone who was doing empowerment for girls through menstrual hygiene management.’ This has turned out to be one of the most important friendships in her walk as a menstrual hygiene advocate as Diana supports, especially reusable pads, which are environmental friendly, and has been supporting most of her activities.
“Together with Diana, they have been able to distribute the reusable kits and partnered with her community based organisation to do other activities,” shares the father of two.
As her husband, he has also been supportive of her work by helping create posters for the events and also with any graphics that needs to be done. One of her strongest traits and one that the husband believes has been a fuel to this journey is her ‘go-getter’ attitude.
“She is a go getter, and this makes me have the urge to support her in achieving the vision she has for the organisation. She ensures her children and family are taken care of before embarking on her work. So, she knows how to juggle well without neglecting any of her responsibilities,” he adds.
Like many other in her line of service, one of the biggest challenges she faces is with communities that still don’t believe that menstruation is a topic that should be addressed publicly. These suppressive cultures make it hard to address menstruation issues. The other challenge is fundraising for the pads drive and bringing supporters on board. Despite these and others, the community champion is determined to stay on the mission. “Our vision is to have a society where young marginalised people live with dignity. The change I want to bring is to see a community where people can address menstruation issues openly without any fear. I dream of having a pads bank where young girls can just come and pick pads without fear or stigmatisation of any form,” she says in ending.