From Darkness to Light
Angela is a shy and friendly little fifth grader studying at the Oneno-nam Primary School, Kenya. Being an orphan, she struggled alone with the challenges of puberty. The sweet girl lacked proper guidance and the onset of her periods caused her great confusion and emotional trauma. She would resort to using strips of cloth and attempt to disguise her period stains with her sweater. Instead of menstruation becoming a normal bodily function, it hindered her from participating in activities like school or athletics. KEDHAP stepped in at this crucial phase in her life!
KEDHAP educated her along with the other girls in her school about the growth spurts and puberty changes in adolescence. KEDHAP supplied pads and underwear to all the girls and trained them on healthy sanitation practices. The entire experience transformed Angela’s life and confidence!
Knowledge is Power
Cultures all over the world have developed detrimental concepts and beliefs about menstruation. In Kenya, studies have shown that girls will miss an average of four days of school each month — adding up to about 20% of the school year. Women face discrimination, harassment, and are looked down upon because of menstruation, as it is seen as a form of weakness rather than a necessary biological function.* The lack of sanitary towels and underwear has been an impediment to girls from poor backgrounds in Kenya. Without these supplies, girls have devised unhealthy alternatives to cope up with their menses such as the use of pieces of clothes, old blankets or resorting to sex in exchange for sanitary pad! This sadly results in teenage pregnancies and sometimes infections with HIV. They miss school during their menses and struggle to catch up with lessons due to all the missed classes.
KEDHAP Foundation has been at the forefront of empowering girls and building their capacity to be able to utilize their potential through its programs.
- Provision of disposable sanitary towels and underwear to menstruating girls in Primary and Secondary schools enabling them to stay in school during their menses.
- Provision of girls’ health education sessions to improve self-esteem and facilitate better performance in their academics, allowing them to fairly compete with boys.
- Facilitating female empowerment programs to impart skills to girls in both secondary and primary schools, and training groups of women affiliated to KEDHAP.
A Hopeful Future
KEDHAP continues to evaluate the efficacy of its programs. Interviews with school heads have indicated the impact of these programs on girls in mixed and girls’ schools. The results are promising as indicated by:
- Doubled population of girls attending these schools since the start of the programs.
- Improved self-esteem of girls, many of whom have taken leadership positions in student bodies.
- Decrease in cases of reported early pregnancies, an indirect related statistic.
KEDHAP runs various female empowerment programs to benefit women who are orphans, widows or HIV positive. The pandemic has forced the community to look at alternative ways of ensuring food security. A dairy goat program impacts the economics of many poor widows. KEDHAP also provides financial assistance to orphan girls who are struggling to pay their school fees.
Kenya is highly patriarchal in the rural areas of the country. The cultural belief in viewing girls to be lesser than boys in some communities is still a challenge. Change is being embraced slowly. The overwhelming positive impact of the female empowerment program have led to a huge number of girls enrolling in schools. KEDHAP still relies on the generosity of donors like you to ensure that none of the girls miss out on the essential provisions like sanitary towels and underwear.
PLWHA (People Living With HIV/AIDS) support groups face challenges in the form of unfair and discriminatory power dynamics. For example, women in some support groups headed by men often complain that decision making roles are given to men and that women are allocated minor roles. Similarly, orphaned girl-children face greater challenges due to their gender and age. As a group, they are likely to be subjected to sexual violence, exploitation and face greater possibilities of dropping out of school due to work commitments, forced marriages or teenage pregnancy. Women and grandmothers who are HIV-positive may be hindered from HIV education, access to information, services, and resources, simply because they are women.
Become Part of the Change
This International Women’s Day, we salute these brave girls who have overcome their circumstances through sheer hard work and dedication. We applaud the efforts of KEDHAP Foundation for its overwhelming positive impact on girls and women. Girls are now realizing their potential and performing better than ever. Thanks to KEDHAP’s efforts, these girls are now becoming role models to others in the community.
If you would like to change the life of a girl like Angela TODAY, click here. With YOUR contribution, girls and women will be empowered to live healthy, productive lives and to push for further progress within their communities.