Here’s the thing, Junior Elders was created to laugh away our problems. No one comes out of life alive, so we might as well enjoy the ride. Don’t we pray for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change? We also do pray for the courage to change the things that we can. And today, we take a break from the serenity of the things that we cannot change and try to change the things that we can.
I don’t know if this generation does it, but back when I was in high school we used to have sister schools and boys schools. You know, a school of the opposite sex that you would vibe with. Students from that school were the only ones you were allowed to fall in love with, anybody else from a different school was a side dish.
Come to think of it, dating someone from a ‘sister’ school sounds incestuous to me. I’m glad I stayed a virgin through high school, Angel Michael got nothing on me.
Sorry for digressing. One day, one of our sister schools came over for a joint exam. To be honest, only the teachers cared about the exams. The girls were just happy to see “their boys”, and the boys happy to see “their girls.” All was going well. A few guys with big metallic balls managed to sneak their girls into the dormitories and into their curtained beds. A few with human balls but with enough courage hid behind buildings for a grab and feel. The rest of us with balls made from those fragile NEMA shopping bags walked around the school with our girls discussing dumb stuff that made sense to us back then.
Then boom! Shit happened!
One of the girls started having a leak. We were not ready. She was not ready. Nobody was ready for such a thing, especially the boys. Biology classes only brushes over such things. So we didn’t understand. Her friends surrounded her and escorted her to the bus where she sat until they left. Such a humiliating public embarrassment. Imagine such a humiliation in front of your crush. If you are a man whose masculinity depends on being indifferent to the pain of others, imagine meeting your crush when you have a man flu. With the running nose and shit. You get the picture? Good, now know that menstrual leaks are five times as embarrassing for the girl.
We are not done imagining.
Now imagine you are a girl from a poor background. All you can get during that time of the month is a piece of used kitchen clothe or an old mattress to put over your worn out underwear. No money for sanitary towels. We won’t even mention the pain that sometimes come with menstrual cycles. Because the pain of lacking something as basic as sanitary towels is a greater pain.
But the government promised free sanitary towels to all public schools, some of you will say. Didn’t the same government also promise you nine stadiums? And free laptops? And job opportunities for the youth, women and people with disabilities?
The average female student faces many challenges when it comes to hygiene and sanitation when on their periods. The situation is made worse by the societal stigma around issues concerning menstruation that they can’t even speak out about their pain. The average girl child from a disadvantaged background misses at least four days of school every month to deal with menstruation. That is at least a month out of school every year. And with the Kenyan syllabus and “bora salary yangu imeingia” attitude of the disgruntled Kenyan teacher, you know they are missing a lot.
Poor girls have been left with only two options- use materials that are more of health risks than sanitary pads when on periods, or exchange sexual favours for sanitary towels with predators who can afford them. The result is the many teenage pregnancies you see around the villages.
Luckily, someone has decided to do something about it. And we are happy to join.
The Keep A Girl In School Initiative aims at providing school girls with sanitary towels and pants. At the moment, the target is 1000 girls in primary and secondary schools in Ugunja subcounty. The beneficiaries are also taught menstrual hygiene management skills. The initiative will organise sessions for girls to discuss menstrual health and related issues.
To make a contribution, see below poster for details.