‘Bleed with Pride...’ drive donates pads to 2,000 Lamu girls

A reusable sanitary towel. In Lamu County, 2,000 girls have benefitted from a similar donation.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Many girls in Lamu have gotten pregnant and dropped out of school, with some getting married at a tender age.
  • PadMad Kenya has partnered with other entities to set up a campaign dubbed ‘Bleed with Pride, Period’ that saw more than 2,000 schoolgirls receive reusable sanitary towels.

“Poverty forced me into sex. I needed money to buy sanitary towels. It was my first time to engage in sex and I got pregnant. Had I known, I would have avoided it. I am now at home, I cannot go back to school due to shame.”

These are the words of *Khadija Gubo (not her real name).

Many young girls in the remote villages of Lamu, including Hindi, Sheemgambo, Mkunumbi, Koreni, Bar’goni, Mswakini, Mavuno, Poromoko, Witu, Maisha Masha, Boni forest, and surrounding areas face a similar fate.

It is in these villages where men, especially fishermen, boda boda operators, and casual labourers at Lamu Port (Lapsset) take advantage of girls. They give them money to buy dignity pads in exchange for sex. 

Pregnancy cases

As a result, many girls in Lamu have gotten pregnant and dropped out of school, with some getting married at a tender age.

Lamu Women Voices Organization says the county reports at least three early pregnancy cases, among school girls, every month. Many other cases, they observe, go unreported due to stigma amongst parents and victims’ families.

“These are just a few cases reported across Lamu County. Most cases are from Hindi, Witu, Bar’goni, and Lamu East areas where majority of the girls are from very poor background,” says Fatma Abdallah, the organization’s executive officer.

There is, however, a ray of hope after PadMad Kenya in partnership with Lamu Yoga Festival, Jaspar Foundation, and Help Change Lives organizations set up a campaign dubbed ‘Bleed with Pride, Period’ that saw more than 2,000 schoolgirls in Lamu receive reusable sanitary towels earlier this week.

Reusable sanitary pads

PadMad Kenya is a social enterprise that addresses period dignity through provision of biodegradable, reusable sanitary pads combined with Menstrual Health Management (MHM) and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) education.

The more than 12,000 pads were distributed to girls from different schools including Lamu Girls, Shela Bright Girls secondary, Manda, Mahmoud Bin Fadhil Girls, Pate, and Kizingitini, among others.

Speaking during the distribution, Madhvi Dalal, the founder and executive director of PadMad Kenya, noted that most girls from disadvantaged communities and financially incapacitated families, often skip school because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

Ms Dalal said she saw the need to coordinate with other partners to ensure as many Lamu girls as possible are provided with reusable dignity towels.

“We’re helping mitigate the plastic pollution menace through the distribution of biodegradable pads. This campaign is helping girls stay in school, empowering communities to become financially self-sustainable, and bringing in a powerful sensitization to address the cultural taboos of menstruation,” said Ms Dalal.

Menstrual stigma

She noted that the educational workshops they undertake involve school boys and girls to demystify menstrual stigma and encourage good health and hygiene within the groups.

Monika Fauth of the Lamu Yoga asked Lamu communities to remove the shame and stigma arising from menstruation.

“There’s a need for a broader conversation about menstruation beyond menstrual hygiene management so that everyone in society knows this and lifts the taboo in it. There’s no shame or embarrassment in talking about menstruation,” said Ms Fauth.

Muzne Rashid, PadMad Ambassador and Lamu Yoga volunteer encouraged local communities to talk openly about menstruation to girls.

Ms Rashid expressed disappointment that lack of the right education and awareness has led to school girls, especially from poor families, not to give attention to the same.

“Our campaign is aimed at creating awareness among adolescent school girls about the importance of menstrual hygiene, as well as distributing sanitary pads among them,” said Ms Rashid.