Project Imagine seeks to eliminate menstruation as a barrier to completing primary education for poor girls in rural & urban Kenyan schools.
Project Imagine visits Swani & Mt Olive Primary schools in Murang'a County, Kenya three times a year & Salama School in Nairobi twice/month. On our visits, we engage our peers with lessons on peer pressure, leadership, managing stress, healthy choices & hygiene & distribute sanitary pads to the girls who have started their period. By talking about the pressures we all face as young people we hope to encourage the students to continue to make decisions that will help them finish their education.
Additional categories (optional)
Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Eligibility: Date of Birth
October 17, 2002
Help us stay in touch!
Selah Piper and Isabella Bunkers are the student founders and leaders of Project Imagine. They are American citizens living in Nairobi, Kenya and attend International School of Kenya. In the US, they can be reached through Susan Piper at 216-287-2270
4489 Groveland Rd.
University Heights, OH 44118.
Website or social media url(s) (optional):
Facebook: Project Imagine
Date You Started Your Project Started
September 1, 2015
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
The Government of Kenya estimates that girls miss 20% of school days each year because they do not have safe, consistent access to sanitary pads; 2 out of 3 rural girls who do use pads, get them from sexual partners. As a result, rural & poor girls face significant barriers to completing primary education & are at greater risk for sexual exploitation. Increased access to menstrual pads & education empowers girls to finish school with dignity.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Four out of 5 girls don't have access to health education or sanitary pads in Kenya. We partner with & visit 2 schools in a rural community three times a year & an urban school every other week. On each visit to all three schools, we implement a health, hygiene & self-empowering curriculum through a peer-to-peer mentoring model. Our curriculum is culturally-relevant & contextually appropriate and focuses on the challenges all of us teenagers and adolescents face. Recent lessons have included messages like: “girls and women are powerful,” “I am a problem solver,” “give respect to get respect” and “teams (Together Everyone Achieves More) work!” The mentoring model allows for real relationships, learning for all the students involved & compliments the supply of sanitary pads with sustainable life lessons. We also launched a “period positive” campaign in March to reduce shame and stigma. We hosted a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary "Period. End of Sentence" at our school & have been distributing stickers & bracelets with “.+” messages to fellow students as well as posting menstrual health facts in every bathroom (male & female) on campus & on all our social media platforms.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
Project imagine (PI) started in 2015 when then 12-yr old Selah Piper got her period on the plane ride from the United States to her home in Kenya. She didn’t have any sanitary pads with her and that natural but embarrassing experience prompted her to ask a deeper question: what do I take for granted? Selah researched the menstrual health options of her peers in both rural and urban centers in Kenya and discovered that many girls in East Africa, and around the world, miss school - or even drop out – when they begin menstruating. The idea was shared with friends - boys and girls - who together started Project Imagine to express gratitude by supporting other girls to finish school and achieve the future that they imagine for themselves. PI is now led by Selah and Bella Bunkers (co-founder) and has 40 passionate student members working together to help their peers in neighboring communities.
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
If you are a Salama, Swani or Mount Olive School student, you engage with PI on a regular basis over the most critical years of school, class 6, 7 & 8, which is when drop-out rates begin to increase. You are provided with sanitary towels so that you don’t have to miss school or worry about staining your school uniform. Even better, you get to participate in fun games & hear messages like “my body is precious” & “I am smart, I am strong & I am beautiful” every time PI students visit. You begin to believe these words & are empowered & encouraged to dream about your future & be proud of being a young woman. You try harder & do better in school because you believe in yourself & others believe in you, too. You pass exams & move on to secondary school where your chances of delaying marriage & childbirth, entering the workforce and breaking the cycle of poverty have just increased tremendously.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
What makes us unique & what truly makes the difference is consistency over 4 years and our peer to peer model. Girls & boys aged 13-18 are engaging directly with Kenyan girls the same age and are sharing personal experiences and approaches our peers relate to. We use culturally relevant games, dances and role plays which helps us break barriers and build trust and rapport where adults cannot. We talk openly about our lives, menstruation, self-esteem and peer pressure, which creates a safe environment. Boys also play a key role! Kids listen to other kids and when that occurs, change happens.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Over the past 4 years, PI has distributed close to 120,000 sanitary pads to Kenyan girls in grades 6,7 & 8. As a result, the schools report a decrease in absenteeism by 50%; to date more than 700 Kenyan girls have stayed in school. Teachers believe that the combination of access to sanitary pads, increased self-respect and an ability to stay in school has resulted in one hundred percent success rate on the Kenya Primary Exam at all three schools. For the first time at Swani Primary School, in October 2018, all class 8 girl students passed their final exams and moved from primary to secondary school! Teacher Mary of Swani Primary noted, “attendance for the girls has improved so much. We have also observed great change in their hygiene, attitude and acceptance among themselves. Our boys have also learnt to respect and appreciate them as their sisters.” And PI now has over 40 members!
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
This year, PI will be expanding our distribution of sanitary pads to Kakuma Refugee Camp where we received a request for support from a secondary school. We are also considering partnership with Zana Africa to distribute underwear and a positive health comic book, in addition to the pads, to all the students we work with in Murang'a and Nairobi County. A young girl in Bomet County, Kenya recently committed suicide after she was allegedly shamed by her teacher for soiling her clothes with her menses. PI will be partnering in October with other Kenyan health advocates to raise funds and awareness of menstrual health justice through local podcasts, lobbying government, the International Day of the Girl and the US-based National Period Day.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations over $10k
How did you hear about this challenge?
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Nadya Okamoto. Also I want to note that we are applying as a team; please add Isabella Bunkers as Team Member. We lead Project Imagine together.