In July 2016 Sussex University student Catherine Mcmullan visited Ndhiwa to talk to girls first hand about their everyday experiences of periods, schooling and the effects of poverty.
“Girls reported that they felt ashamed and embarrassed during their monthly period, not least because they had little understanding about what was actually happening to them.
“Many feared that they would stain their uniforms, that boys would laugh and tease them, and that they would be unable concentration in lessons.”
These feelings often lead to isolation and girls missing school. Partnered with a ‘culture of concealment’, many of the girls felt unable to talk about their periods or seek advice from others.
Unfortunately poverty in Ndhiwa has real and devastating effects on girl’s access to reliable and hygienic sanitary products.
The majority of the girls interviewed are not able to buy disposable sanitary pads and often have to use home-made alternatives. Sadly these alternatives are either entirely ineffective or even unhygienic. Ranging from old rags, to sponge mattresses, one girl even reported using maize leaves and another cow dung!
It was shocking and upsetting to hear how this is the reality for these girls in Ndhiwa:
Some of us only have one pair [of pants] so this makes us miss school as we can’t use pads or anything.
I started my period in class and used my sweater to tie around my waist to cover myself, the following day I used a piece of cloth because I could not manage to get a sanitary towel.
Luckily Team Kenya has the ability to spread a period positive message -they have already begun teaching the girls more about menstruation and hygiene and more is set to be done.
Educating the girls in this community will go a long way in ensuring that they feel comfortable during their periods and feel able to seek advice.
Similarly, due to your donations, Team Kenya are able to provide sanitary towels to those most in need and are teaching girls how to use reusable and sustainable pads, rather than unhygienic alternatives. This ensures girls stay in school even when on their periods.”