Edinburgh student designs reusable sanitary product

Edinburgh scientist 
Liita Cairney is the Director of Kalitasha; a business developing a wide range of solutions to poverty-related health issues. Picture: University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh scientist Liita Cairney is the Director of Kalitasha; a business developing a wide range of solutions to poverty-related health issues. Picture: University of Edinburgh
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An Edinburgh University student is working to bring dignity to all women around the world – at all times of the month.

Liita-Iyaloo Cairney, a global health Phd student at Edinburgh University, is working to design a high-quality, affordable reusable sanitary product to help transform the lives of young women in developing countries.

It is estimated that some girls in Africa miss up to 10 per cent of their education due to menstruation because they don’t have access to the right items to make them feel clean and comfortable. Higher drop out rates are said to follow as a result.

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Ms Cairney, 32, who is originally from Namibia, said her own personal experience of having lack of access to sanitary wear as a teenager and an “intellectual thirst” had driven her to create the koree, a silicone cup fitted with a bamboo liner that can be changed or washed and reused as required.

Her idea was first developed with the help of Launch Ed, the wing of Edinburgh University that supports students to develop new business opportunities.

She has has since been awarded Scottish Enterprise funding to develop the koree and a prestigious enterprise fellowship with the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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Her company, Kalitasha, has also received backing from a Glasgow-based early stage equity investment fund.

Ms Cairney, a PhD student in global health policy, said: “The largest social issue faced by girls in many countries around the world, including Namibia, is having effective means to manage their period.

“That can be due to a combination of financial reasons but it is not always that people can’t afford to buy sanitary products, it is just not a high priority for some.”

Ms Cairney, who is married to a Scot, said she was keen to make a difference in her home country and was recently given a letter of endorsement by First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, for her work in this area.

She said: “People on the ground in Namibia want to solve the problems that they face but they are not necessarily aware of what is possible or the capability to change. I would definitely love to make an impact there.”

Ms Cairney is to launch a new website at the end of next month to coincide with Global Menstrual Hygiene Day to help educate and inform girls about menstruation and body changes in a lighthearted way.

“My message is really about education and empathy, and how good product design can bring dignity to all women.”