Let girls/women have dignified periods!!
Apr 28, 2022
Am the founder of Qabale Duba Foundation(QDF)www.qabale.org which is a charitable organization in Marsabit County of northern Kenya. The aim of the foundation is to bridge the gap in the communities by advocating for the rights of the girl child specifically and women more generally in northern Kenya. The focus of this initiative of the QDF foundation is empowering school girls through provision of sanitary towels and undergarment, under the program name of PAPA (Pads and Pants).
The intervention of PAPA project was meant to initiate measures that will equip girls with sanitary towels and panties, to enable them concentrate on their studies. The girls will receive a year’s supply of the pads and avoid skipping lessons monthly to attend to their physical demands. “Pads are as important to school girls as pens, they can’t stay without them. The provision of such facilities does not form part of luxuries, and that their benefits go beyond offering comfort to the girls.” (QDF, 2013/2014) When girls are able to access pads, they tend to get empowered, which then enhances their dreams, and eventually helps in economic development. Their poor parents could not provide for pads and panties since even food was a huge challenge to the families. Upon realization of these problems, QDF saw that there were many girls who were suffering silently and we felt the need to solicit for support in donations for purchasing sanitary pads/panties for pastoralist school girls from remote villages of Marsabit.
Before the PAPA project started, QDF investigated why the number of girls dropping out of school at the age of 11-18 was still high despite universal free public education. A key finding pointed to something that no policy maker had previously identified. During menstruation, girls refused to go to school because there were no appropriate or adequate sanitation facilities. Due to the high cost of sanitary towels, girls from poor families from nomadic backgrounds continue to use unhygienic sponges, mattresses, tissue paper and even leaves. Therefore most of them avoided school altogether during their menstrual period to avoid the shame of soiling themselves in classes where they will be with boys and teachers. The study indicated that, “a girl absent from school due to menses for four days in a month of 28 days loses 288 lessons in a calendar year – that is 192 hours of missed learning due to absence from school.” (QDF, 2013/2014). Hence QDF is trying to bring dignity to these girls and enable them to continue with their studies and achieve their dreams. QDF findings in the earlier study has led to a campaign noted above, the PAPA project, targeting schools and the general public to raise awareness and demand action. QDF has also mentored schoolgirls on sexual maturation and their rights, as well as helping to demystify the use of sanitary towels in communities that had previously had no access to it.
QDF is working with women groups and teachers from local villages and schools to provide workshop on menstrual health and hygiene. In its inaugural year 2013/2014 the PAPA project has helped more than 1,000 girls remain in different schools in the County to date. With the help of our partners the plan is to reach to over 6,000 girls a year, at least 500 girls every month in the remote village schools and empower them to finish their school without missing classes due to menstruation related issues. We can purchase one packet of reusable pad and a pair of panties that cost $5 each per girl and can last up to a year. So it cost us $10 to make a girl comfortably remain in school for a whole year without missing classes because of monthly periods. Currently we are locally making reusable period panties in Marsabit county to be able to help village school girls and also pastoralist women who have no access to these basic necessities.