We realised some years ago that most of the young women attending our schools in Kenya miss a week of school every month, once they reach puberty. When their menstrual period occurs the young women have no appropriate resources to assist them, such as sanitary pads. This means that for many it is a time of the month when they cannot attend school and may not even be allowed in their own homes.
Missing a week of school a month means having an approximately 25% gap in your learning and this has obvious negative effects on educational outcomes for these girls.
In January 2017 we connected with Florence Kamaitha who is an amazing Kenyan woman who founded Pad Heaven with the aim of 'keeping girls in class one pad at a time.' We selected 3 GSP schools and Safehaven Orphanage to be our trial participants. We were trained in Florence's education program, purchased a pack of 6 pads for each girl and set off for our schools. There our Well Being Officer Lonah educated the young women, arranged for a mature female teacher in each place to act as a mentor and we provided the girls with their pack of reusable, washable sanitary pads, panties and soap.
We then tracked the progress of these girls each month through Lonah's visit to their school and reports from the mentors. What we found:
- School absenteeism dropped by 88% for the young women in the program
- The pads lasted 6 months rather than the expected 12 months, mainly because the girls had no soap to wash them with and had to resort to scrubbing with stones and sticks
- The young women became far more self assured and confident as they realised that menstruation is natural part of their lives and does not have to mean exclusion
Where to next.....