It is a common but unappreciated setback that girls in Africa and more in Kenya miss school and are forced to stay at home due to menstruation. According to UNICEF, one in ten schoolgirls in miss classes or drop out completely due to their period, and substitute pads or tampons for less safe and less absorbent materials such as rags, newspaper or bark .
In diverse situations, the rate of attendance of school by girls has a direct relationship to their menstruation cycle. Their movement and efficiency in activities and in education is inhibited by high cost of sanitary products which they cannot afford. Proper sanitation in their residential areas especially toilets are unheard of hence making it hard for the girls to have a proper and descent place to change or dispose pads.
The girls also lack privacy in the different environments. In most African countries, it is a taboo to talk girls issues especially menstruation and hence prevent girls and communities from openly discussing the issue.
The program’s aim is to improve participation, retention and performance of girls in school through provision of sanitary towels. The campaign commenced in 2005 as a result of the Research carried out by GCN and its partners, “The Status of Gender Equity and Equality in Free Primary Education in Kenya”, and has since evolved from direct community support level to policy level.
On direct support, GCN has reached out to a total of 13,953 girls in 111 schools in the country with sanitary towels this reporting period. At the policy level GCN has continued to engage the National Sanitary Towels Steering Committee in ensuring standardized procedures of distributing sanitary towels in school, are harmonized and a database developed.
To this end, the Committee with the stewardship of the Ministry of Education has drafted National Guidelines on the Distribution of Sanitary Towels in Schools and developed a database that has a list of schools from needy and marginalized areas with the total number of menstruating girls.
A project that is making affordable sanitary pads from locally available materials is keeping young girls from poor families in school all month long as well as generating local employment for many women, men and girls in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The Makapads, which sell much more cheaply than imported sanitary pads used by better-off women and girls during menstruation, were developed by Dr. Moses Kizza Musaazi of Makerere University’s Faculty of Technology in 2003-4, with funding support from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Research done in 2002 showed that many girls did not attend school when they were menstruating because they could not afford to buy commercially-made sanitary pads and 90% of the urban poor were improvising with unhealthy materials such as banana fibers, grass, leaves, old newspapers, and pieces of cloth that did not provide reliable protection. Dr. Musaazi, a specialist in appropriate technology and a senior lecturer in Makerere University's department of electrical engineering, set out to make simple, safe, affordable sanitary pads that would keep girls in school.
Elizabeth Scharpf has set up in Rwanda what she hopes will be an ‘eco-system’ for the local economy to tackle women’s sanitary needs once and for all. 18% of Rwandan girls miss, on average, 35 days of school every year due to ineffective methods for dealing with periods and the fear of embarrassment. The lack of education about periods is pervasive.
Helped by UNICEF, She has set up the Sustainable Health Enterprise (SHE) to combat the issue including making eco-friendly pads from the use of banana fibre which is an absorbent material made from the trunk of the banana tree that is routinely chopped down after each harvest, and so is both eco-friendly and efficient. As well as providing employment for local men and women through the manufacture and sale of the pads, she is spreading information about periods via the sale of the products by health workers, and building safe and clean toilets. Her driving goal is to equalize the playing field in terms of access to opportunity”.
Elizabeth confirmed that menstruation is a taboo and most people shy away from talking about it. She has utilized existing networks of community health workers and women’s groups, and business-friendly policies an unusually beneficial combination in East Africa to sell the idea.
The Mashujaa team seeks to address this Problem by:
Developing partnerships with relevant state and non-state stakeholders
Advocating for Reproductive health rights of the girl child and hold the government accountable for the implementation of the reproductive health Act ,2011 which requires subsidization and distribution of sanitary towels to schools and marginalized areas e.g. slums & rural areas
Organizing for regular session as follows:
Morning Session: Girl talk~~~ Mentorship and Reproductive health sessions --- (Discuss about girls issues affecting their education and help them with solutions)
Afternoon Session: Girls participate in fun sports
End of day: Distribute sanitary towels to the girls
Through these sessions, girls would be inspired to perform better in school and have mentors to look up to in their career.
Organizing forums with the partners to strategize on an advocacy plan and messages
Utilizing new media and other media to relay the messages
First we hope the initial funding will come from the funds to be won from the Challenge future competition and contributions by partners. There shall be contribution both financially and in kind by participating schools, the volunteers, non-state actors, other well wishers and civil society organizations working in the slum areas and with program targeted towards girl and women empowerment.
Budget and Initiative Funding ( *Budget Attached in a Separate Sheet)
In the slum areas, there are some communities which hold the traditional believes that sports are only meant for boys and it’s our intent to address this by bringing in female coaches andpast female beneficiaries of other programs which involve girls in sports initiatives.
We plan to conduct exchange visits with organizations like moving the goal post and Carolina for Kibera which involve girls in their HIV/AIDs sports initiatives. We shall conduct information sessions on the benefits of the project and partner with relevant government ministries.