In one of his famous public lectures, the former anti-corruption boss, PLO Lumumba who was currently appointed to City Hall to head a committee to audit its pending debts once said that:
'We live in a country where our young ladies who have recently attained the age of puberty cannot afford sanitary towels but our men and women in public offices have iPads which they do not even know how to use.' His sentiments represents the reality our girls experience and it is even worse when it comes to those in the rural areas. The ones who affording three meals per day still remains a miracle all thanks to the economic groundswell of their parents. Poor to the core is their first name.
Formative research by FSG a consulting firm cites that, 65% of women and girls are unable to afford sanitary pads.
"Only 50% of girls say that they can openly discuss menstruation at home and just 32% of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product." stated the report.
Consequently, when you narrow it down to home (Baringo and Nakuru County) the situation is worse. This is the reason why Dandelion Africa launched their program Let It Flow.
"The Let It Flow program was started in 2014 as the organization saw a need to give sanitary pads to girls in rural areas who were missing school due to menstruation. Dandelion Africa has been distributing sanitary towels to 35 schools both in Baringo and Nakuru County. We started with one school and the progress has been satisfying.' Narrated Harun Muchai, Administrator in charge of Youth program at Dandelion Africa.
He added: "The program has been successful as it has been able to keep girls in school whose parents have low income and cannot afford to provide for them. There has been growth since the commencement of program as we had only one school in the program and currently the number stands at 35. In an estimate, over 2000 girls have benefited from this program and we've scaled it up such that we don't just give them sanitary towels but we add them panties and also boxers to the boys. Our main drive is to give these girls an opportunity to spend more time in school and shape their future through education."
"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
According to the reports by Dandelion Africa, the girls in rural areas who previously could register high rate of absenteeism, has tremendously reduced and this has seen them being given equal opportunity to compete with boys. As a result, most of these girls are joining national schools and also through the program, cases of girls being lured in by old men in exchange of sex for money to purchase sanitary towels have minimized. Such cases lead to unwanted pregnancies, HIV infections and therefore contribute to girls drop out of school and at the same time suffer psychologically due to stigma.
Photo courtesy/pupils at Majani Mingi primary showing off their sanitary towels after Dandelion Africa's distribution.
A report conducted by UNESCO in 2016 noted that one in 10 girls in sub Saharan Africa is absent from school during their menstrual cycle. Consequently, data from the Ministry of Education noted that a girl absent from school for four days in 28 days loses 13 learning days equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term which results to 39 learning days in an academic year.
Last year the government of Kenya signed into law the Basic Education Amendment act which mandated that all school going kids would receive free sanitary towels. However, the gaps between unmet and met need is still worrying as not all the schools receive the sanitary towels this is especially in Baringo County, where insecurity and poverty is a big factor. The distribution schedule is quite limited making it not reliable.
In an interview with girls from three different schools both in Baringo and Nakuru county, it was noted that most girls are not able to afford sanitary towels and were it not for Dandelion Africa, many of them are not sure what would have happened thereafter.
"Most of the girls in my school are not able to afford sanitary towels. In some cases, girls use sexual favours from taxi motorbike men in exchange for money for sanitary and few more work in the sisal farms to meet this basic need. It's a struggle to contain the monthly challenge and we appreciate Dandelion Africa for coming through via their Let It Flow program." Said Gracious Odera, student in charge of welfare at Athinai secondary school.
Same sentiments were echoed by Clare Jerop a from two student at Molosirwe secondary school located in the interior part of Baringo county who said that the struggle is mutual and that most of them work in the farms as causal laborers as a way of earning money so that they can purchase the pads.
'Sometimes, we choose to stay at home when we are menstruating as it is so uncomfortable going to school with nothing to hide the stains and the shame that comes with it. It's a struggle to say the least." shared Ms Jerop. "Most of us borrow from each other, it is not easy being that girl who cannot afford sanitary towels which is universally considered as a basic need." She concluded.