For decades, issues relating to menstrual health and hygiene have been discussed with many ideas thrown about but no clear lasting solution.
Visit any school, especially in the rural areas and you are almost guaranteed to find a girl or two who miss school every month due to lack of the all-important personal effects.
The case is no different in Murang’a County. But to reverse the situation, two university students have invested their money and time to help girls stay in school.
The two, both studying economics and statistics at Kenyatta University, felt the need to make a positive impact in Murang’a.
Marion Tatua, 22, and Mercy Karanja, 21, say they always had the nudge to address issues of menstrual health and hygiene in the county. But why Murang’a, we asked.
“Most of my relatives grew up in Murang’a and I had the urge to give back to that community, specifically Wanjengi village,” says Ms Tatua.
To embark on the journey, the two registered a community-based organisation.
And on September 17, 2020, Pro-Girls Nation, aimed at making a difference for young adolescents, was born with the two young women as the founders with support from eight other young people.
Before the team embarked on any projects, they visited Murang'a on a fact-finding mission.
During their visit, the headteacher at Gituto Primary School and the area chief confirmed that girls in the area were struggling to access sanitary towels.
This gave them more reason to choose Wanjengi as their first area of focus.
Pro-Girls Nation has a mission to impact, empower and educate a future generation of informed youths and teens.
They aim to raise awareness on menstrual health, sex education, career development, financial literacy and empowering the youth.
The group had its first event at Gatuto Primary School on November 14, 2020.
The team not only conducted a pads distribution drive to help the young adolescent primary school girls but also brought with them a group of professionals to speak to the girls and boys on sex education, menstrual hygiene and the stigma on menstruation.
On that day, more than 200 pupils benefited.
“Financially, our parents and friends have supported us greatly. As we geared up for our first pads drive, we ran a challenge called Jaza Jaza to target our friends who are university students to contribute any small amount to help us reach our target,” said Ms Karanja, the vice chairlady.
“However, we still rely greatly on our pocket money to help us fund our events as the ten of us have committed to paying a certain amount semiannually to help fund our projects.”
After positive feedback from the Murang’a community, Pro-Girls Nation decided to do a second event.
On June 26, the team headed to Wanjengi Primary School for their first career day, which was based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) education.
They were accompanied by professionals in the Stem fields to mentor the pupils.
The main purpose of the event, as the team says, was to create awareness on Stem careers in the world today as well as motivate the learners on the importance of pursuing their dreams.
After yet another successful drive in the county, the team now plans to hold more events in the future to impact more young adolescents in Murang’a and later spread to other counties.
“Our plans in Murang’a also include mentorship and character development,” says Ms Tatua, the organisation’s chief executive.
Two young learners, a boy and a girl from Wanjengi sub-location, explained how Pro-Girls Nation had impacted their lives.
The boy, 12, admitted that previously he was clueless on menstrual health and only perceived it as a woman’s problem. But through the organisation’s efforts, he has become more open-minded on menstrual awareness, sex education and more on how to handle finances at a young age.
The girl, 13, said that now she can attend school regularly as she has sanitary towels donated by the team.
She also praised the team for enlightening boys in her class on menstrual awareness, which has helping end stigma.
“We hope to maintain this good rapport with people in Murang’a County so that we can continue to make a difference. We also hope to expand our good work to more schools in this county as well as more counties across Kenya,” says Ms Tatua.
Financial challenges notwithstanding, the team of 10 hopes to stand the test of time as they continue to make a difference in society.