Vancouver's 2017 TaiwanFest to empower Kenyan girls with project that puts sustainability first

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      Several years ago, Elle Yang received word that the girls that she and her church group sponsored to attend school in Kenya were having trouble making it to class.

      “We wondered why, because we were sponsoring these girls to go to school,” Yang said on the phone from her home in Taiwan. “We learned that after school fees, they still had a problem with sanitary towels, or pads. They couldn’t afford it because we didn’t sponsor that, so they had to stay in their home until their period finished. We thought, ‘That’s crazy.’ ”

      Yang, who is a project coordinator for a nonprofit organization called Love, Binti, told the Straight that their first idea was simply to fundraise and send tampons to the girls in Kenya, but they worried that this solution wasn’t sustainable. Instead, they decided they would send volunteers to Kenya and teach rural people there how to make their own reusable sanitary pads.

      “We thought that was really good because they could make it on their own out of T-shirts and fleece jackets that can easily be found in the local market,” Yang continued. “So we started this project.”

      This year, Vancouver’s TaiwanFest has partnered with Love, Binti (Swahili for “girls”), and is helping raise money for the project. Love, Binti also teaches would-be supporters in Canada and Taiwan how to sew their own pads, which they can then send to Love, Binti’s people in Kenya.

      “We posted a video about how to make them online, and people do that and send them to us,” Yang said. “Canadian people, even if they can’t afford to donate money, can donate their time to make sanitary towels.”

      At TaiwanFest, Love, Binti will have a booth where anyone interested can drop by and learn how to sew a sanitary pad.

      Love, Binti sends volunteers from Canada and Taiwan to Kenya.
      Love, Binti

      According to a 2014 United Nations report, one in 10 young women in sub-Saharan Africa misses school during her menstrual cycle. That document states that in Kenya, an estimated 2.6 million girls need financial support to obtain hygiene products.

      Love, Binti is a project of Step30 International Ministries, which in 2016 received help from TaiwanFest in sending shoes to Kenya to help combat painful parasites called chiggers that can burrow into people’s feet.

      Yang added that Love, Binti’s latest project is all about sustainability. “It’s a long-term solution,” she said.

      TaiwanFest takes place in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, and other locations from Saturday to Monday (September 2 to 4). A complete schedule of events is available here.

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