It is Desmond Tutu who said “It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men” This ‘adage’ captures the essence of valuing girls and women as opposed to expressing male chauvinism. It implies that respect should be accorded to women not because they are weaker or (less) smarter, but because they are equal human beings. In this light, I will focus more on the girl child. Specifically, on menses. Yes, you read that right. I see you rolling eyes but oh well. Of course I know this topic may make you cringe either because you experience it or like me, are affected indirectly.
Studies suggest that around 66% of girls know nothing about menstruation until they are confronted with their first menstruation ‘event’, making it a negative and sometimes even traumatic experience. On the other hand, statistics show that over 600,000 girls in Kenya enter puberty every year. Some rather devastating statistics recorded by the government show that over 500,000 girls miss out on their school terms as a result of odds that come with puberty. What then does this imply? It simply means that there is an urgent need for collective effort to enlighten the girl child about menstruation and provide them with sanitary pads which will keep them in school. In return, a lot of young women will be prepared to grow to strong women and leaders in the future.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) in partnership with Girl Child Network, HEART, Asante Africa, Ministry of Education and Nakumatt have already been involved in this noble initiative whereby over 100,000 girls have benefited from the over 80 million pads given out through the Always Keeping Girls in School program. Yesterday, at a colourful event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the program, P&G rolled out a plan to ensure that over 10,000 girls stay in school over the next one year. This will be through providing them with free Always pads and puberty education.
The impact of the program is evident from the research conducted by the company to gauge whether it was beneficial or not. From the research, it was found that the girls who benefited from the program were able to concentrate better in class, there was an improvement in their overall performance and attendance. It is also worth noting that last year alone, the impact of the Always Keeping Girls in School program which was conducted mainly in Isiolo, Kajiado, Siaya, Marsabit, Laikipia, Samburu, Nyandarua and Narok was:
- 78% of schools have documented improved girls attendance
- 75% of adolescent girls reported stronger confidence in saving and money management
- 68% of the girls are more comfortable discussing sensitive topics with family members
- 60% of the girls acknowledge confidently refusing unwanted sexual advances
- 50% of the schools reported improved girls’ academic performance on 2015 national exams
The government has also thrown its weight behind the girl child entering puberty by allocating a budget of 400 million in the 2016/2017 budget. The program will complement the government’s efforts in keeping girls in school through sanitary pads, pants and puberty education provision. In the next 30 days, P&G intend to donate over 600,000 pads to class 7 and 8 students of selected needy public schools.
Here’s the best part-You can also be involved in the program. How you wonder? All you need to do is walk into either a Nakumatt or a Naivas supermarket or the various mini markets spread countrywide and purchase an Always duo pack. For any purchase you make, P&G will donate one single pack to go towards the P&G Always Keeping Girls in School, which will go to providing free sanitary pads and puberty education to 10,000 girls in Kenya. You can get more info about the program here. You can also follow the conversation by checking out the hashtag #AlwaysStandUpKe.