This year World Health Day falls on the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organisation. It is 75 years old today. As an organisation it has witnessed vast changes in the health of the world, however there are still disparities that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century. The original aim was to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Many of those that are still vulnerable are schoolgirls. Health doesn’t just include the absence of disease; social elements have a large impact on health too. Social stereotyping keeps girls at home in Kenya and frequently prevents them attending secondary school. For example, only 22% of girls in sub–Saharan Africa attend secondary school compared with 52% in South Asia. It is difficult to work out why these statistics are so different but at Power Of Pads we are doggedly dealing with just one aspect of this conundrum. Addressing the issue of access to period products appears to be such a small thing, but in fact can have a huge impact on girls’ outcomes.
Keeping girls in education has a knock-on effect on all areas of health. It is known all over the world that the longer a girl stays in education the later she will start to have children and in Kenya it has also been shown that girls that stay in school postpone their sexual debut as opposed to the girls who drop out of school.
As Trustees we are all volunteers, we give our time freely and happily to support our developing charity but one of our projects in rural western Kenya also relies on volunteers. Two groups of women in Kakamega and Busia work to make the reusable pads. They do this for no payment whatsoever and they must do this alongside supporting their families, growing their food, cooking, laundry and all the other tasks that women in Kenya are expected to undertake, they often struggle to afford the bus fare to get to the centre. They are prepared to do this because they understand how important it is for girls to stay in school.
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