First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Lorna Macleod: We are doing just fine despite the circumstances. This year has really taught us to slow down and be grateful for what we have. It’s been nice to have some extra time with family, but I look forward to the days when this is behind us. I’m especially excited to get back to Kenya, my second home.
Tell us about you, your company, how you founded Huru.
Lorna Macleod: Huru was founded in 2008 while working with orphans and vulnerable children in Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s largest informal settlements. It was clear that girls were greatly impacted by the onset of their periods, lacking access to resources and accurate information. With assistance from Huru’s founding partners, Micato Safaris and Johnson & Johnson, Huru was launched with a vision for a world where no girl (or woman) is limited by her period.
At Huru, we produce and distribute locally made, high-quality, reusable menstrual pads to girls and women in Africa who need them. We wholly believe that girls deserve access to reliable products, no matter where they are in the world. We deliver them in Huru Kits that contain everything a girl needs to manage her period, from pads to underwear to soap. Plus, we provide sexual and reproductive health information to girls and their community to diminish menstrual myths and women’s health stigma. You can read more about our pads on our website by clicking here.
How does Huru innovate?
Lorna Macleod: Since the beginning of Huru, we have shifted and improved our pads and our programs with girls in mind. For example, Huru has worked with both in school and out-of-school girls since the beginning, but the older girls expressed another critical need: skills training. In response, Huru created a Skills Transfer Program in 2018 and has since held four training classes with significant numbers passing their NITA (National Industrial Training Authority) exam. You can read more about that program here.
Further, when the onset of COVID-19 created a shortage of facemasks around the world, various neighboring businesses in Kenya asked us if we could help. So, we shifted some of our production lines to making facemasks, of which 70,000 have been dispersed throughout Kenya from medical clinics to family homes within Mukuru.
Plus, Huru has recently developed a menstrual health learning app, which has proven itself incredibly useful this year when the Kenyan government placed restrictions on large public gatherings.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Lorna Macleod: At the onset of the pandemic, Huru was forced to make quick decisions to adjust our strategy and ensure our teams’ safety in both New York and Nairobi, Kenya. And while our New York team has been working remotely since March, our Nairobi team has been busier than ever this year.
Despite being unable to hold group distributions, our team has reached thousands of girls with pads and menstrual health education thanks to courier partners and our newly developed app. Our team has even been going door-to-door to girls’ homes to give them their Huru Kits, and we’re on track to reach more girls this year (during a pandemic) than we did last year.
Overall, we’re grateful that we have been able to continue our work throughout this year, and we absolutely plan to end 2020 on a high note. We have more information on our COVID-19 response here.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Huru in the future?
Lorna Macleod: I make a conscious effort to focus on the good work that we are doing and not get distracted by anxiety. Our team has regular virtual meetings and calls, which help keep overall morale up, plus I try to encourage our staff to take time for themselves to reset and recharge, especially this year.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Lorna Macleod: We don’t like to think of anyone as competitors. We think of them as allies that are working towards the same goal.
As previously mentioned, Huru spent much of 2019 and early 2020 developing a government-approved menstrual health learning app called Free2. The app condenses Huru’s curriculum into 28 game- and quiz-filled lessons to keep girls (and boys) engaged and learning. Free2’s launch was a timely solution to the COVID-19 issue of restricted movement.
By utilizing Free2, Huru was able to continue educating girls on life skills, puberty, menstruation, and more without having to gather in crowds. More than 23,000 girls have registered on Free2 and have completed all 28 lessons. One girl even told us that she used the app to educate her brother, who had previously made fun of her for having a period. We truly believe that Free2 and more technical innovation will play a key role in Huru’s future.
Your final thoughts?
Lorna Macleod: The simple truth is that girls deserve access to pads, and those pads should be trustworthy and dependable and come with complete information about girls’ health. At Huru, we strive for our programs to be sustainable and change-affecting in families and communities, so girls are supported both in and out of the classroom.
Please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] with any questions you may have!
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