Even before the trainer had started to demonstrate how to put on a sanitary pad at a centre in Kobura, Kisumu County, hands were already up. Tens of girls and a young boy who sat conspicuously at the front row had many questions about menstruation and menstruation hygiene.
They asked, “Should I take medication to ease the cramps” and “how long do I keep the sanitary pad on?”
The teenagers discussed among themselves then the trainer responded to each of their questions.
This is a safe space for the teenagers. They talk about the menace that is teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS and their dreams beyond their villages. The sessions are organised by Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) through its implementing partner Health Innovation Kenya.
Against this backdrop is a community with high numbers of early pregnancies and HIV infections. In 2018, the estimated HIV prevalence in Kisumu County was 17.5 percent, translating to more than 122,000 (9,439 children and 112,561 adults) people living with HIV in the county. In 2020, it recorded 17 percent of teenage pregnancy cases with Nyando sub-county, one of the most hits.
“Due to financial constraints, some girls fall prey to sexual exploitations in exchange of commodities like sanitary towels,” shares Emilly Omudho, KCDF’s Team Leader, Livelihoods.
The Foundation in partnership with Moi University college of Health Sciences is implementing a project to support the orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDs in Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Kisumu and Siaya. To leverage for more resources to meet the objectives of the project, Emily says that they are running a campaign dubbed “Pamoja4TheChild” to support the vulnerable families.
“The first phase of the campaign started in May 2022, and it entails meeting the immediate needs of the households; provision of dignity kits for adolescent girls and boys and food packages as we work towards strengthening these households economically. We have so far supported more than 1,000 girls with a yearlong supply of sanitary pads,” she offers.
Eunice Aluoch whose daughter is in the programme, beams with joy as she narrates how this will help to ease her burden. “I have seven children, three of whom are girls. With competing expenses like school fees, clothes, and food, I could not afford to buy sanitary pads for them. They were forced to use old clothes and it makes me feel bad because there are times they missed school. With these 12 packets, we will not have to worry for some months,” she said.
KCDF’s Partnerships and Resource Development Officer, Esther Muraguri says the provision of dignity kits is a short-term goal that seeks to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable households. “The long-term goal is to equip the households with skills to generate income so they can become self-sustaining.”