Preventing Womanhood from Limiting Education
School girls all over Kenya are missing school today.
Not because they don’t want to be there or because their parents can’t afford to send them (although that is a problem for many), but because of their periods, because of the gift of childbearing potential.
These girls come from poor homes and communities, lacking the funds for both sanitary pads and panties in which to place pads. As a result, they miss school. They stay home for about a week, seated or laying down, placing rags between their legs to stem the flow. Since girls average one period a month, this means they miss about 25% of the school year.
Imagine the educational impact, hundreds of thousands of young women whose opportunities to excel in school and life diminish, as grades decline and test scores fail to reach levels which lead to secondary school and college placement.
Imagine the emotional impact, the indignity of being unable to properly care for your reproductive health, of naturally wanting to keep your cycles private and feeling intense embarrassment when your classmates know the dates of your period because that week you miss school
In 2012, the Kenyan Government recognized this barrier to the education of girl children and began a campaign to supply sanitary pads to young women in public schools. The number of pads is never enough, but this was a start, recognition of the issue and an attempt to address it. However, pads are not the only necessary component for managing periods. Girls also need panties—which the government is not supplying.
Late last year, Koru-Kenya adopted The Panty Project, which launched a social media campaign in 2012/13 to raise funds and collect new donated panties for distribution in 4 local schools. 348 girls received 5 panties each through The Panty Project. Now, Koru is supporting The Project to continue. Under Koru’s wing, The Panty Project has provided 505 panties to 101 girls, bringing the total to 449 young women supported to continue their education despite their menstrual cycles. All these recipients were also part of sanitary pad provision programs through either the Government of Kenya or Wema Centre, a shelter and education facility for vulnerable children, meaning they had all necessary components to care for themselves on their periods.
Reproductive Health Life Skills
Koru-Kenya now pairs the distribution of panties with a reproductive health life skills session. Giving girls the materials necessary to manage their periods is a huge step toward eliminating barriers to education and restoring dignity to young women. However, many of these young women have a poor understanding of the changes their bodies are undergoing, having never engaged in structured discussions with trained personnel or even their peers. Life skills sessions ensure girls understand what’s happening with their bodies, their risk for pregnancy, family planning, and how to care for and protect themselves. Now, they have both the knowledge and tools necessary to care for themselves.
What You Can Do
We all have different passions, if empowering girls to thrive in education and health is one of yours, you can support the Panty Project by:
Give: Visit the support section of our website and designate your donation to the Panty Project in the line provided.
Get Involved: You, your organization, club, sports team, or other group can hold fundraisers or panty drives. Koru-Kenya currently partners with a sports team, OKC Outlaws Banked Track Roller Derby, and the international Star Wars fan club, the 501st Legion, both of which are collecting funds and panties during their events or activities. We love these partnerships which cross international divides to care for young women who are everyone’s responsibility. If you would like to do something similar visit the contact us section of the website and let us know.
We welcome your help to remove reproduction as a barrier for girls’ education in Kenya!