Universal education is one of the millennial development goals set to be achieved in the world by 2015 — we have less than 500 days to go. According to UNICEF, there are 31 million girls of primary school age not enrolled in school. How can we achieve this goal when girls are not enrolled in school or drop out due to early child marriages and other cultural practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), poverty, lack of school fees, sexual violence and lack of SANITARY TOWELS.
How can we achieve this goal when girls miss close to 5 days of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels? Girls from poor families use unhygienic methods during their menstruation such as old pieces of clothes, tissue papers, cotton wool, feathers, and old goat skins. Others end up engaging in transactional sex in order to get money to buy sanitary towels. This exposes the young girls to risks of getting HIV/AIDS and some end up pregnant, thus dropping out of school. There was a feature aired by citizen media in Kenya in 2013 showing the dire need of sanitary towels in rural Kenya. Sad how something that should be considered as a basic need is assumed to be a luxury.
According to Ministry of Education in Kenya, there are 2.5 million girls aged between 9 and 18 years who need sanitary towels in Kenya. The government only caters for 568,925 girls from primary school (class 6-8) from 7,141 schools in 142 districts, which is only a fraction leaving out close to 2M girls who are in need, the demand is high.
Due to this gap I founded Donate a Pad initiative in December 2012 to try and help in my community. The initiative is mainly run from my salary and a monthly contribution from my best friend Mona Manani. Every month I buy sanitary towels and donate to 200 girls who cannot afford sanitary towels in the rural area in 9 schools in Kitui, Kenya. Basically girls who cannot afford sanitary towels miss school close to five days in a month hence affecting their performance and lower their self esteem hence affecting their confidence in school.
Donate A Pad ensures that the girls are in school by providing sanitary towels, their self esteem and dignity is restored. Since I started we have noticed the performance of the girls has improved and they are more confident. I also provide mentoring programs by connecting the girls with mentors to guide them through their education and career choice. The girls write to me sharing their dreams of what they want to be in future and how Donate A Pad is helping them in achieving their dreams. It’s so fulfilling to see girls excited about education. This inspires me to do what I do to make sure the girls are in school. No girl should miss school because they lack sanitary towels.
So I have a plan in the near future of starting a manufacturing firm that will use agricultural waste materials such as banana fibers and papyrus to make affordable sanitary towels that will cater for the demand of sanitary towels as well as keep the girls in school. Am also doing a research on other sustainable alternative options such as cloth pads and menstrual cups that can be used to cater for this lack. We are also thinking of growth and soon we will be in Kisii, Meru, and Lesotho I will keep you posted as the plans unravel. Hopefully one day we will be able to donate to all the girls that need sanitary towels.
As of now you can donate a pad and help keep a girl in class. Did you know with only KES 396 ($4.50) you can keep a girl in school for the whole year?
I believe if you educate a girl you educate the whole community, and Nelson Mandela summed it all by saying “Education is the only weapon we can use to change the world.”
Have a lovely Read,
About the author of this post:
Maureen runs Donate A Pad Initiative, and is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, Young African Leader. She is passionate about empowering young girls to complete education and is a mentor. She loves telling her story to inspire people to reach out to their dreams and be more. “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”~Aldous Huxley