#LLAInterview: “I found out that the prices of sanitary products had increased by more than 100% and thought of how it would impact the underprivileged girls who already struggled with the prices of these products,” Karo Omu, Founder, Sanitary Aid Initiative.

Image credit: Karo Omu

Karo Omu is widely known as the founder of Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls and the Foundation for The Eradication of Child Labour. She is also a social media, marketing & brand specialist. With an educational background in Mass Communication, Karo Omu began her career in Brand and Social Media Marketing with Konga Online Limited before leaving in 2016.

Karo is currently the Executive Director for Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls (S.A.N.G), and the Foundation for the Eradication of Child Labour. She and the team at the Foundation for the Eradication of Child Labour (FECL) work tirelessly to ensure that child hawkers and child workers are removed from labour and enrolled in school. 

Sanitary Aid for Nigerian Girls (S.A.N.G), is a non-profit activist organisation that aims to provide free sanitary pads and menstrual health advocacy for underprivileged young girls. In 2017, Karo observed that the recession had exponentially increased the price of women’s sanitary products by 100%, precluding impoverished women from acquiring them. So, she started her NGO to help meet this gap, seeing as there were no government programs to help women in this capacity. She and her team also teach the girls about menstrual hygiene, handing out the S.A.N.G Period Handbook which teaches girls the basics of menstrual hygiene. 

Through her work with SANG, she has assisted over 15, 000 girls across ten states in Nigeria. Reaching 10,000 women and girls in 2018 was a milestone for Karo and the entire Sanitary Aid team; as well as seeing students sponsored by the Foundation for the Eradication of Child Labor excelling every term and knowing that these opportunities were not robbed off them. Her work places her at the centre of the fight for women’s rights and health and makes her story worth sharing. She is motivated by results and feedback and commits a lot of her time outside SANG to organizations that are involved in promoting women’s right and equality. 

Regardless of the lack of funding and the bureaucracy issue and system that exists in Nigeria, Sanitary Aid has been relentless and even more resilient in this tedious journey to ensure that woman and girls in Nigeria are provided affordable and sufficient sanitary product and female health advice. Karo hopes to have joint projects with willing participants to reshape education for the children from lower-income homes and be more involved in social advocacy projects that help improve the lives of the most vulnerable people – children, women and the aged – in our society, in Nigeria. 

When she’s not advocating for free sanitary pads for Nigerian women and girls, you can find her sharing her powerful opinions on female empowerment on Twitter and putting her words to work by making strategic partnerships with equally socially-conscious brands.

In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, the #LLA100WOMEN2020 Honoree shares the inspiration behind establishing her NGOs, why she’s passionate about female hygiene education and taking children off the streets, the challenges she faces in the course of running her non-governmental organizations and memorable achievements in the course of her work. Lean in!

Can you tell us about you? Who is Karo Omu? 

I am an events manager and social impact worker focusing on issues affecting women and children. I founded two organisations, Foundation for the Eradication of Child Labour and Sanitary Aid Initiative. I enjoy using social media, playing basketball and spending time with those closest to me. In recent times, I have been more focused on sustainability and ways to achieve social change not just for now but for a long time. 

The inspiration behind establishing Sanitary Aid NG

Sanitary Aid was born from a conversation on Twitter about the increased prices of pads. I found out that the prices of sanitary products had increased by more than 100% and thought of how it would impact the underprivileged girls who already struggled with the prices of these products. I sent out a tweet and the responses were amazing, that was our first fundraiser, subsequently, we did more and became a full-fledged organization. 

Image credit: Ohamgist.com

How did you gather the team at SANITARY Aid NG? 

The core team were recruited through social media -those who were willing to work at the time. Our Associate Director, Cynthia, is someone I have worked with on previous projects. When we started, we needed people who had different skills to bring to the table. 

Measured impact and achievements with Sanitary Aid NG. 

So far, we have been able to distribute pads to over 15,000 women and girls in 10 States in Nigeria. We have educated even more on menstrual hygiene. We have been part of campaigns focused on improving WASH facilities in IDP camps and public schools. 

Motivation and Inspiration behind your organization and what you do? 

Every girl we reach is different with different stories. They’re not just statistics or numbers and knowing this makes me want to do more to educate them and learn from them. Beyond poverty, teenagers are at an impressionable age; so, being part of an organisation that inspires confidence in them is fulfilling.

Image credit: Karo Omu

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going? 

In this line of work, there are many challenges from bureaucracy to funding. However, the biggest challenge I face is feeling like no matter what I do, it will not be enough, the needs will never end. I try to find comfort in the impact we have already made, going over the feedback from our current beneficiaries and using that to plan better and do better. 

Image credit: BBC

Memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work? 

Our first outreach was very significant to me. Since then, there have been many more – from our first partnership with a Nigerian bank to when I went to speak to teenagers at a School in Kent. There have been many, I feel lucky to be able to do the work that I do. 

 

The Leading Ladies Africa weekly interview series focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.

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