by Margaret Mutune
Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated each May 28th “to break the silence around periods, tackle the stigma often associated with them, and raise awareness of the importance of menstrual hygiene for women, girls, and people who menstruate around the world”.
At Kenya Connect, we envision a world where girls can play and safeguard and learn about their health without experiencing any kind of stress or unnecessary barriers.
Lack of information about menstruation leads to damaging misconceptions and discrimination and can cause girls to miss out on normal childhood experiences and activities. Stigma, taboos, and myths prevent adolescent girls and boys from the opportunity to learn about menstruation and develop healthy habits. Educating women is more than transforming one individual at a time. This is because it improves families, communities, and even nations. As the well-known African proverb says, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.Education is the crucial element for women to join this movement for gender equality. Educating girls saves lives and builds stronger families, communities, and economies. An educated female population increases a country’s productivity and fuels economic growth.
In 2017, Kenya Connect created WingsPoa a reusable sanitary pad kit made by local women. These kits include a “shield,” liners, panties, and a bag to contain the items.
Out staff distribute the WingsPoa kits and provide menstrual health and hygiene information as partner schools. These sessions empower the girl child in primary and secondary school. They get to learn about menstrual hygiene management and how to manage their periods while in school and at home. Distributing the WingsPoa for free ensures sustainability and accessibility for the girls who can’t afford synthetic sanitary Pads. Through the Wings Poa program and Kenya Connect’s Girl/Boy empowerment, the girls also have a chance to learn more about sexual reproductive health. These programs were created to reduce teen pregnancies and has allowed girls to continue with their education and achieve their dreams and goals. Since 2017, Kenya Connect has provided 890 girls from 23 schools with WingsPoa kits. It has also meant that local woman earn income by creating these kits for us.
Jacqueline from Mwaasua Secondary School shared, I have been using WingsPoa pads and they are very comfortable to use. When I was using the synthetic pads, I wasn’t comfortable and sometimes I had to stay home from school until my period ended. The synthetic pads were buring me and sometimes they would leak while I was in school, but since I began using Wings Poa, I feel comfortable in school. I am so happy because I can use the kit for a long time.
Another student, Salome shared, “Wings Poa have cut the cost of buying synthetic pads to my parents which were a bit expensive for then. I have been feeling very comfortable while using them in school and also at home. I am not longer missing school due to my periods and I concentrate well in class. Before I received a WingsPoa kit, I was missing four days of school a month since my mum could not afford them. Now I am happy to be using WingsPoa.
Besides this, Kenya Connect is supporting the girl child in education through library, technology, and other enrichment programs. The girl child is being prepared with 21st skills along with helping them gain confidence, courage and developing strong voices. We are working to ensure that a girls menstrual cycle is no longer a barrier to their schooling and life.