One of the most troubling headlines in Kenya is that COVID-19 is exacerbating the effects of Period Poverty with increasing reports of girls being reduced to transactional sex to acquire the most basic need for feminine hygiene products.
In a recent article "Sex for Sanitary Towels, Food," Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Rotary International Representative to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) noted that a high number of girls in her region, the Nyando Province are engaging in sex in exchange for food and money to buy pads.
Kenya Works recently headed to Nyando Province in partnership with the Homa Bay County Office of Gender as part of a Girls Mentorship Program. Rural communities are already economically vulnerable from impacts of extreme weather, both drought and flood and are now dealing with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know girls and women lose economic power within families as communities are increasingly more vulnerable.
We worked with the gender office to deliver an empowerment curriculum for girls focusing on empowerment and protecting futures in combination with the distribution of 2,400 Makini Pad kits. It was also an opportunity to work with county officials on the benefits of reusable pads as both a needed product and an economic opportunity when manufactured locally.
As a result, Kenya Works representatives were invited to Parliament to share the Makini Pad case study with the Honorable Gladys Wanga, a prominent voice for gender advocacy within the Kenyan government.
Our work doesn’t stop with a pandemic. We know COVID-19 is taking a severe toll on the economy and has worsened period poverty for the most vulnerable. Our outreach continues along with our commitment to helping girls manage their periods safely and with dignity.
“Period poverty is widespread throughout Kenya. In the best of times, 2 out of 3 women and girls can’t afford sanitary products. With the pandemic, it is just that much harder for girls to obtain these basic needs," said Felisters Musyoki, Head of Makini Pad Production. "Since we launched Makini Pads in 2014, I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands of girls through our distributions. Each girl I meet shares her happiness and confidence with me."
We are changing lives by ensuring girls have the support and products they need to get periods out of their way even during a pandemic. It's more critical than ever to ensure girls' dignity and opportunity.
Head of Makini Pad Production