Ziyaan Virji, India, 17
Project: Accessible and Affordable Sanitation for Women (AASW)
Basic Human Needs: Education, Health
When Ziyaan watched the documentary, India’s Menstruation Man, he was astonished that the basic necessity of menstrual hygiene materials was inaccessible to so many girls around the world. After additional research, he learned that girls in his own community in Tanzania who didn’t have access to menstrual hygiene supplies were forced to miss school, use unsanitary materials and even trade sexual activities for menstrual products. Ziyaan continued to research the topic of menstrual hygiene and its implications in society. He became so passionate about tackling this injustice that he taught himself basic stitching and shortly after, created Accessible and Affordable Sanitation for Women (AASW). AASW is an initiative that empowers East African girls to self-produce their own menstrual materials and aims to break down the social stigma of menstruation internationally. Ziyaan distributes eco-friendly and cost-effective packages to girls, which gives them access to menstrual hygiene and reproductive health education. The packages contain the tools and instructions for them to stitch, use and wash their own menstrual pads that are reusable for up to 3 years. With active teams in UAE, Dar-es-Salaam, Pakistan, Mwanza and Mombasa, AASW currently works with more than 300 girls. In the future, Ziyaan hopes to make menstrual hygiene easily accessible on a global scale and to further expand his work to target a range of issues faced by women.