Girls to benefit from free sanitary towels

Nyeri First lady Margaret Karungaru with some of the school girls who benefited with free sanitary towels donated by Procter and Gamble Company recently. Photo Joseph Wambugu
Nyeri First lady Margaret Karungaru with some of the school girls who benefited with free sanitary towels donated by Procter and Gamble Company recently. Photo Joseph Wambugu

OVER 800 school girls from vulnerable families living in slums within Nyeri Central sub- County have benefited from free sanitary towels and a pair of underwear donated by Procter and Gamble Company.

The initiative dubbed ‘Always Keeping Girls in School’ aims to reduce absenteeism and improve girls’ academic performance.

The Company’s Director, Mary Ndung’u said the program targets the teenage girls in the interior parts of the country, adding that so far 15 counties have benefited.

“We are providing them with free sanitary towels that will serve them for one year. The program started ten years ago and we have already donated eight million sanitary pads,” She said.

Free sanitary towels

Ndung’u was speaking at DEB Muslim Primary school in Nyeri town recently.

In the year 2016/17, Ndung’u said, over 12,000 girls from over 100 schools will be reached countrywide.

The young girls were also sensitized on puberty and hygiene maintenance.

“Provision of free sanitary towels and puberty education will increase time spent in school because at present most girls lose 25 percent of their school time during menses,” Ndung’u further noted.

Speaking at the same forum, Nyeri First lady Margaret Karungaru decried that girls suffer from stigma and embarrassment during menstruation and puberty.

“Girls get low self-esteem during menstruation and affect their relationship with others. But with interventions by private sector and other stakeholders the gaps will be reduced by providing basic needs,” Karungaru said.

After receiving the towels the girls’ excitement grew among them as they shouted with joy.

Statistics shows that menstruation causes Kenyan adolescent girls to lose an average of 3.5 million learning days per month.

Culture of silence

UNESCO estimates that one in 10 African adolescent girls miss school during menses and eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues, such as the inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, the social taboos related to menstruation, and the culture of silence that surrounds it.

Adolescence is a crucial stage of life and one that is challenging for most girls because of its physical and psychological changes.

One of the major physiological changes in adolescence girls is menstruation.

Today in Kenya, menstruation is not only a health concern, but also an educational policy concern – and has become a key factor in the country’s bid to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015.

Adolescence is a transitional phase in life from childhood to adulthood, and is something worth celebrating.

This stage is marked by physiological changes such as increased body size and the ability to reproduce as well as psychological changes, including the ability to think critically, an expanded reasoning capacity, identity formation and sensitivity to the ‘new’ body image.

Significance downplayed

However, for most girls in Kenya and other parts of the continent, this phase often brings challenges that push girls out of school and social activities, making the celebration short-lived.

These challenges have often been underplayed, even though research has shown that their effects are significant.

Menstrual blood is considered dirty and harmful, resulting in girls who are menstruating being restricted from participating in some activities for fear that they may ‘contaminate’ others and the things they may touch.

For instance, in most African communities, menstruating girls are not allowed to be in the kitchen to cook or to do the dishes, and neither are they allowed to participate in games with other young people during their menstruation period.

This in turn fosters stigma as the restrictions create the perception that menstruation is shameful and that menstrual blood is harmful. And yet menstrual blood is free of toxins and any harmful bacteria.

Compounding these customary challenges is the lack of access to sanitary protection and towels, which dis-empowers girls, as they have to stay at home to avoid staining their clothes with blood in public.

The cost of sanitary ware and towels is beyond the reach of most young women and girls, who in Africa are the majority of the unemployed and those living in poverty.

Most girls end up not going to school, because they cannot afford to buy sanitary ware.

Additional reports from online.

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