Kiandutu slums is one of the biggest slums in Thika which came as a result of closure of many industries in Thika town, and the collapsing of coffee plantations. This led to many of Thika dwellers living in poverty and engaging in petty jobs. Most of the people found in Kiandutu slums are single mothers, blind people and street children who occupy 75% of the slums.

Kianjau Primary School is one the schools found in the middle of the slums and being a government school it has a big population of the needy kids. Most of the pupils in the school go there not because they need education but because of the free services they can get there which include free food. This helps the families who go for food and most of them take the advantage of the government resources to keep them going. Most of the pupils go to school bare footed, wearing improper clothing and mentally disturbed, leading them to lose focus on the importance of education in their lives. The girl child is mostly affected by the poor conditions in the slums and most of them are ashamed to talk about what they go through in their daily lives.

And though sanitary towels come in different sizes, brands and colours from which one can choose their pick, about 103 girls (the number keeps increasing each new day) in the school, miss school every month due to lack of sanitary towels. Though Metro FM in conjunction with KBC has made some donations, a lasting solution must be found so the girls can get sanitary towels on a monthly basis. This is not the only school and these are not the only girls, if the statistics are anything to go by.

In some urban slums girls are known to dig through garbage dumps looking for used sanitary towels which they wash and reuse. In some rural areas girls are known to use leaves, dirty rags or even cow dung to try and stem their menstrual flow or even dig a hole in the ground and sit on it. Some girls share their sanitary towels (usually scrap cloth) with their mothers. All of these practices expose them to diseases, discomfort, loss of dignity. Few schools have emergency sanitary supplies for girls, and communal toilet facilities are generally very unsuitable for changing sanitary pads. Although data on the topic is scarce, similar patterns are likely to exist across Africa. These issues are not talked about due to embarrassment, lack of understanding and the low priority of such problems in the face of starvation, violence, death, illiteracy and the many struggles of daily life.

Did you know that…

• About 1 in 10 school-age girls do not attend school during their menstruation.
• A girl who is absent from school for 4 days every month loses 13 learning days which is equivalent to 2 weeks of learning in every school term.
• In a school year (of 9 months) a girl loses 39 learning days which is equivalent to 6 weeks of learning time. A girl in primary school between grades 6 and 8 (3 years) loses approximately 18 weeks out of 108 school weeks.
• A girl in high school (4 years) loses 156 learning days which is equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of school! This is a clear indication that a girl child is a school drop-out while still in school.

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