Why Should Reproductive Health Be a Barrier for Education?
All over Kenya girls are missing school today (for many the first day back after the holidays) because of their menstrual cycles. These young women come from poor homes and communities, lacking the funds for both sanitary pads and panties in which to place pads. As a result, these girls miss school—staying home for about a week week, staying seated or laying down, and placing rags between their legs to stem the flow. Since girls average one period a month, this means they miss about 25% of the school year. Imagine the educational impact of this, consistently reducing their opportunities to excel in school and life because missing school means their grades suffer and they may not pass their exams to enter secondary school and college.
Beyond simply the educational implications of missing school because of menstrual cycles, the indignity of being able to properly care for your reproductive health can be devastating. For the ladies in the audience, you remember your first few years of menstruation. Having your period come at unexpected times and panicking because you didn’t have pads to deal with the flow. Going to the restroom only to discover you had flowed too much. Especially as a girl, wanting to keep your cycles private and feeling intense embarrassment about the whole process. Now imagine if most of your classmates knew when you were on your cycle because that week you missed school.
Recently, Koru-Kenya teamed up with The Panty Project, which launched a social media campaign in 2012/13 to raise funds and collect new donated panties for distribution in 4 local schools. 348 girls received 5 panties each through The Panty Project. Now, Koru is supporting the Project to continue.
In December 2013, 50 girls received 5 panties each at the Wema Centre, a partner organization which provides support to orphans and vulnerable children. We paired the distribution of panties (and sanitary pads provided by Wema Centre) with a 3-hour life skills session. It was only meant to last for 2 hours, but the girls enjoyed it so much, they delayed breaking for lunch and just kept talking! They learned about reproductive health, family planning, and how to care for and protect themselves. For many, this was the first time they ever spoke with a group of girls and a trained educator about these topics, and the experience was really freeing. They can’t wait to do it again!
And, in fact, we will hold another session, although with different girls. We have enough funding available for another distribution for 50 girls through Wema Centre. However, Koru would like to continue providing panties for vulnerable girls. If you would like to support these efforts, please visit our support section of the website which has directions for donating toward The Panty Project.
Help us continue to remove reproduction and reproductive health as a barrier for girls’ education in Kenya!