Third Eye

Youth sets up initiative to address menstrual health 

Monday, March 14th, 2022 00:00 | By
For the Love of Girls team speak to students about menstrual health. Below: Sandra Mwashigadi community outreach and lead together with Fayruz Adan founder and executive director. PD/COURTESY

On average, a woman uses 350 packs of period products in her lifetime. In Kenya, one in 10 adolescent girls miss school during menstruation and eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues, according to estimates from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organiation. 

These issues include inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, social stigmas related to menstruation, and culture of silence that surrounds it. 

Against this background, Fayruz Adan, 27, saw an opportunity to make an impact on young girls in marginalised areas.

In 2020, she brought on board Sandra Mushigadi and Valerie Kutswa for the initiative, For the Love of Girls, in partnership with a local company to raise money, buy and distribute menstrual kits to young girls experiencing such kind of a problem. 

“When Covid-19 began, we did a lot of research to know the best way to assist young girls during such a period.

We heard about them getting pregnant and having sex for pads and how with the county lockdowns, they were not receiving pads they would normally get from schools. That’s what we chose to support them in thus way,” says Fayruz, co-founder and executive director. 

Fayruz has a background in public health and has always steered towards working on women’s health and working with young girls in the community since she completed her university education in the UK in 2015.

She says at first, the organisation began as just family, friends and charitable donations to see what they can do for the community. One thing that was key in their project though, was the aspect of environmental sustainability.

“When we were fundraising, our focus was always ensuring girls have reusable pads as an option because the normal pads won’t last them three months whereas they can wash and reuse a whole kit, which can last longer,” she adds. 

Distribution network

So far their work has been able to impact five counties: Mandera, Nairobi, Kiambu, Mombasa and Tana River, with over 5,000 reusable pads that would last around two to four years for every girl. One of the challenges at the beginning was the Covid-19 restrictions, which limited them from physically going to the counties. 

“Because we not only give the kit but couple it with reproductive health education, menstrual hygiene and wash practices, it’s difficult when you can’t place people in a group,” she recalls. 

To counter this, they set up a distribution network with schools and a few girls, including head girls. These students received pads and shared information regarding how they work and how to clean and look after them. 

They put the girls in groups of 30 to 40 to not only  talk about periods but also other issues affecting their lives.

The small  groups allowed them to have intimate discussions where the girls can share what is affecting them without fear since in the past, they found it difficult to speak. 

“Trying to get the young girls to open up was an issue. When it is a school, we have to ensure teachers leave the room so that the girls would feel comfortable enough to share what’s affecting them.

In the beginning, they were all quiet and shy but we tried to share our experience with them to make it more relatable and by the end of the day, the familiarity made them comfortable,” Fayruz says.

Resources too have been a challenge and to solve this, the organisation has partnered with a local company to design the pads for the girls. 

“Since we are giving it for free, we didn’t want to cut costs and lower the pads’ quality. The testing process took long as we had to make sure we were giving quality pads. It took months to figure out the design and, which would offer the best combination,” she explains. 

Community condifence

The third challenge is accessing funds, with their age sometimes making it difficult when sending proposals. 

“But since we have a holistic programme, people are willing and understand it. Consequently, selling what we do has not been difficult. This was evident as last year when rape and pregnancies rates were increasing. We offered support where we could.

We also align our goals with a lot of areas such as education, sustainability and financial inclusion, where we can work with the communities to achieve these things,” she says. 

Last year, they had breakthrough when they won Sh2.9 million from ABSA Bank for their projects to advance their work in mentorship and in girls’ education.

“We will be able to reach almost 1,000 girls with this money by working closely with marginalised girls, particularly those from juvenile detention centres.

We can create social transformation and increase community confidence through this relationship. We hope that by implementing this initiative, we will be able to combat period poverty while also assisting girls with their education,” she says in conclusion. 

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