Ep. 34: Megan Mukuria and Alison Nakamura Netter Help Girls Reach Their Potential with Zana Africa

"It's kind of amazing what you say yes to in your life and how that shapes your trajectory."

"I was really interested in scale and impact and I felt this urgency that we can't just diddle around on the planet and not really do anything of significance. We need to do something that could affect tens of millions of girls and women."

Listen to the uplifting stories of Megan and Alison and their work with girls in Kenya through Zana Africa. Megan founded Zana Africa when she learned that girls did not have access to sanitary pads and health education, and Zana Africa now fills that need for 30,000 girls a month. Megan decided that her life's purpose was a big one - making life better for tens of millions of people - and her future plans for Zana Africa are limitless. Alison handles communications and development for Zana Africa, and she details her career path that started with PR for a luxury goods company selling $100,000 watches and eventually led to fulfillment.

"We're really creating a movement and this is a movement of women and girls in the US, in Kenya, across the world- where we say that we have powerful and positive connections to our bodies and each other. That's what we need right now in this world, that connectivity, and to raise up this generation of girls who can be bold and positive and help solve the problems of the future."

We talk about both women's individual journeys to this important work, how Megan founded Zana Africa, how a simple donation of $10 can change a girl's life, the menstruation taboo, why taking risks is worth it, trusting yourself, finding work that you're excited to do every day, and the huge global footprint of the US and why that matters for women's health around the world.

"I really love what I do every day, and I'm excited to get up and do it, and I'm proud of that because that took a lot of decision making and taking some risks to get to that point...it's all worth it in the end. You have to go with your heart and what you think is going to be the right choice, but you never really know what's going to happen."

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • Zana Africa is a hybrid social enterprise aimed at helping girls stay in school and stay safe.

  • This is done through supplying young girls in Kenya with sanitary pads, clean underwear and education.

  • A social enterprise takes lower margins in order to make products more affordable, it’s also non-profit.

  • In Kenya sanitary pads are the second largest expense after bread.

  • Megan started Zana Africa after working out in Kenya with street girls, helping them transition into education.

  • Alison joined the organization working in communications and social media.

  • Zana Africa is funded through contributions from individuals and via family foundations.

  • The donation model ensures that $10 can support 1 girls with a school year’s supply of pads, education and underwear.

  • Megan’s proudest moments were securing the funding for Zana Africa and interacting with the girls in Kenya when they have questions about their bodies.

  • Megan studied neuroscience at Harvard and after graduating the expectation was that she would go to Wall Street.

  • Megan has had to deal with naysayers at every step of the journey.

  • Alison used to work in high end product PR, however this was not aligned with her values and she moved to Zana Africa.

  • Access to family planning internationally has been directly correlated to having a democrat in the White House.

  • Across the globe a quarter of the world’s population will start puberty in the next 15 years.

  • Megan has plans for Zana Africa to grow globally and help girls across the world.

"I'd rather do this, and if I fail then I can go back to Wall Street. Wall Street is always going to be there but my passion might not."

Advice:

  • It’s important to find a mentor; an older person aligned with who you are and what you want to be.

  • You don’t need to know everything before you start a job.

  • Don’t underestimate yourself by thinking “am I able to do this?"

  • Practice self care - exercise and sleeping – it helps perspective.

  • Read and learn all the time; especially about other parts of the world.

  • Build a multigenerational support system.

  • We all have a board of directors as the voices in our heads - we are the CEO so we can choose to take on and kick out certain voices.

Learn more:

  • http://www.zanaafrica.org/
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