50 days per year. Two weeks per term
Many girls in developing countries have to stay home from school due to menstruation. Altogether, this sums up to 20% of lost time in school, all because the girls and their families do not have the money to buy sanitary pads and underwear for the girls. Many girls do not have any other choice but to use improvised material during their menstruation. Rags from old clothes, blankets and old cut out t-shirts. These kinds of materials are uncomfortable and many girls therefore choose not to go to school. The consequences are that they miss out on important time in school, which affects their future career and education opportunities in a very negative way. This is the reality many girls all over the world face every month.
What is the Let it Flow project?
We started the Let it Flow project in January, 2012. The project has primarily two goals; The first is to talk about, and educate communities on issues concerning menstruation, equality and sexuality. The second is to raise funds so that we are able to distribute sanitary pads and underwear to girls in poor areas. Since the project started, we have focused on 500 girls from marginalized areas every year. We have distributed disposable sanitary pads, panties, provided education and given the girls an opportunity to raise their concerns and questions in a safe environment.
Among the primary schools in Rongai and Mogotio constituency, six to ten girls per school discontinued because of early pregnancies 2012. When we tried to find out why the rate of girls drop out was so high, we learnt that girls lack sanitary pads, they stay at home for seven days during their menstruation and in some cases decide to prolong that stay for more weeks or sometimes the rest of the term, increasing the risk of pregnancies or early marriages. By providing sanitary pads to teenagers and educating them on sexuality issues, we have seen an uptake in attendance and in the five schools we have closely worked with, there has only been two drop outs in the past year compared to thirty when the organization started working with the schools. The Let it Flow project is not just about providing sanitary pads, it is about empowering young girls to take control of their lives. For those who have already had children, we help them to find schools that accept young mothers and encourage them to go back to school.
Right now the goal is to continue with the project but to switch from using disposable sanitary pads to using reusable ones. Why do we want to produce the reusable sanitary pads:
• Environmental friendly
• More price efficient
• Lasts longer
Most of the girls we work with have told us that they do not have toilets at home which means they have to bring their used sanitary pads with them to school and dispose them in the schools’ pit latrine, this is not only embarrassing for the girls but unhygienic.
The project also includes women from our women groups, who will sew the pads as an income generating activity. This is a more sustainable solution for both the girls and the women in that the women will improve their economic livelihoods and the girls will have a permanent source of sanitary pads distributors.