What We Do
There are three aspects to the work we are doing:
- providing start up funding to women to start sanitary pad making businesses. This is a small amount of money that will buy fabric and other tools and materials needed to make pads. For example, a grant of £150 will buy enough fabric to make hundreds of pads, and £200 will buy a heavy duty sewing machine. The pads will then be sold with the profits going back into the business until an income can be taken.
- we will buy some pads from the businesses to give to schoolgirls for free. In this way we are supporting girls and also further supporting the local women.
- providing reusable and quality sanitary pads to girls in Western Kenya. Some are made by volunteers in the UK and some are kindly donated by a retailer. We hand deliver them as the only reliable way to get them there is for us or a partner to take them, in our luggage!
Our success so far:
From the initial small sanitary pad pilot project we did, we were completely overwhelmed by the amazing results. Here’s what one Headteacher of a primary school* told us:
- Absenteeism was down by 40% across the school. It’s a co-ed school, and this figure is due to girls not missing school when they have a period.
- Teenage pregnancy was down. Since they had the pads, there were no pregnancies (there were 3 in 2017). This is because girls were not having sex with boys/men for money to buy pads. We recognise that this is shocking but is sadly a fact of life.
- In the important end of school exam (KCPE), the top 5 students in the school were all girls! This is unusual as it’s normally the boys who do the best.
185 packs of pads (4 in a pack) and pants were given to schoolgirls in this school and we were keen to get some feedback on the effect that the pads were having and what the girls think of them. They said that the pads are comfortable, they don’t leak, and most importantly they are able to go to school every day. It shows the huge impact that something as simple as a sanitary pad can have on young girls’ lives and how they can actually be life changing.
*primary school in Kenya includes children up to 15 years
Find out about Period poverty in Kenya:
Although period poverty is a universal issue, the impact is particularly devastating when you are a girl living in a poor area of Kenya. The only way out of poverty is through education and if this is threatened because you can’t attend school then you are at a higher risk of sexual abuse, child marriage and early pregnancy. Monthly access to sanitary pads is vital for your life chances.
Period poverty is a widespread problem in Kenya – Unicef found 54 per cent of Kenyan girls reported challenges with accessing menstrual hygiene management products and 22 per cent of girls of school attending age indicated they bought their own sanitary products.
Unicef also found seven per cent of women and girls they surveyed rely on old cloths, pieces of blankets, chicken feathers, mud and newspapers. 46 per cent used disposable pads and six per cent used reusable pads.
The destitution that surrounds menstruation stretches across Africa as a whole – with one in ten girls in Africa missing school during their period due to not having access to sanitary products or there not being safe, private toilets at school.
It goes without saying that if girls are not in school, it is more likely they will be forced into child marriage or teenage pregnancy.
Andrew Trevett, Unicef Kenya chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, said the humanitarian organisation had found it was not uncommon for girls to be sexually abused in exchange for sanitary items.
“We have motorcycle taxis called boda bodas and the girls engage in sex with the drivers who in exchange source the sanitary pads,” he said. “This is happening for two reasons. One obvious reason is poverty – girls and women don’t have the financial means to buy sanitary products.”
“But there is also the issue of supply. Transactional sex for sanitary items happens because the items are not available in girl’s villages. In the countryside, girls are faced with no transport and can’t afford a bus fare. In some remote villages, there are no roads and there isn’t a bus service.”
Furthermore, 76 per cent of women and girls faced challenges in gaining access to adequate water and sanitation facilities for menstruation and only 17.5 per cent of learning institutions had running water near the toilets, as well as hand washing facilities and soap.
*(source the Independent Nov 2018)