My first contact with a Days for Girls Micro Enterprise was through email when I was ordering my kits to distribute in Kenya and trying to arrange how I would go about it when I get to Nairobi. The ladies I contacted passed me to the best contacts to help me and they arranged everything. Christine and Khayanga set up meetings with schools in the area that they knew were in need. They sewed all the kits to have them ready and they really looked after me, meeting me in Nairobi and taking me to the schools. Christine from Days For Girls in Nairobi was very well organised and professional.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a Days For Girls workshop for the Micro Enterprises. This was their first workshop like this in Kenya and was all about getting the ladies who run the micro enterprises and sew the kits together to network, work together and talk about how they can grow and be successful. The workshop was lead by their all mighty leader Khayanga Wasike who is very passionate and encourages the women to be powerful and supports them with the knowledge they need. She started off with nothing and her family struggled, sharing a very small mud hut. She never had any toys and was often looked after by her older brother while her Mum worked a second job in the field. Khayanga worked hard and now has an impressive background in international charity organisations but it still very approachable and warm.
It was inspiring to meet all the women of the micro enterprises who have been empowered by Days for Girls to essentially run their own businesses and they are so happy to be a part of the organisation. Each of them has their own reason for being with Days for Girls and often can relate with a story of their own about their struggles through menstruation as young women. It was comforting to see everyone connected as women, just because they are women. We had fun with telling stories.
Even Khayanga herself had a struggle with menstruation as a girl in Kenya, she would collect cow patties and wait for them to dry and then use them to sit on and soak up the blood or she would collect the softest leaves she could find, put them in the sun to dry and use them to line her knickers, hoping they wouldn’t move. Although this was horrific to me, the room erupted with laughter as the ladies related to her situation. So many girls still struggle with their menstruation needs all around the world.
The brainstorming was buzzing with lots of new ideas floating around the camp fire and sharing success stories of what works for each team. The women need to do the marketing, the production, the accounts and the distribution. Its is a lot to think about but with the support of Days for Girls and the drive to reach more girls with their kits I believe they can do it. They all wholly believe in their product.
- Environmentally friendly
- Cost effective
- Gives the girls confidence and freedom to go about their lives and stay in school
It was touching to hear stories first hand where these kits have been effective. We heard from a midwife who helps new mothers with kits at the hospital, a teacher at a girl’s boarding school and a deputy principle at a mixed school in the area.
A common pattern that we heard was about girls missing school when they were on their periods, with nothing to help them manage it. The girls would get behind in school and the boys would get the better education and more support from the teachers. This is not fair that the girls should miss out. Often their scores at the end of the year not being good enough for them to continue their education.
One of the main reasons girls cannot manage their menstruation needs is the cost of pads. Living on the poverty line it is usually a decision between food or pads and so the girls don’t even feel comfortable to ask their parents to buy them some pads and so they go without. Some girls when they get desperate resort to other means of getting money for the pads, usually from men who want sex in return. This man then becomes the girls sponsor, so each month the girls has to see him again for the pads. Ultimately the girl will become pregnant and have to drop out of school, with the father denying any involvement.
Some girls from the boarding school spoke to us and thanked Days for Girls for giving them their dignity back and helping them to get an education and brighter future. They told us that the boys in their community lie to the girls about their periods. The girls are so shocked when they first get their periods, not knowing what it is as it is never spoken about. The girls are becoming women but think they are dying. The boys take advantage of them and tell them that to stop the bleeding they need to become pregnant so that they will never have to bleed again. Of course, out of this the boys get sex and the girl gets pregnant and once again no education.
Christina, a teacher from the boarding school mentioned that even if the girls can afford the pads there is often no where to dispose of them. They are just dumped on the ground which is terrible for health, the environment and general cleanliness of their living quarters. Some of the schools have been very innovative, suggesting that some of the medical funds provided to the school by the government are used to buy reusable kits for the girls.
Towards of the end of the workshop a plan was made for each enterprise to set up a meeting with at schools with the principles and teacher parent meetings to discuss the immersion of the kits into schools. The kits could become part of the entry school fee. A one-off payment of $8 by the parents for their daughter to receive a kit which will last them 3-4 years and keep them in school.
I have incentivised the women to set up these meeting in the next 5 months that I am around by pledging to buy 40 pods- smaller versions of their kits, from each enterprise that set up a meeting. This will get them into their community, meeting the teachers, principals, parents and girls. Raising awareness of the kits and growing their own businesses. The pods I will them help them to distribute to girls in need in their areas and so everyone wins, especially the girls receiving the pods. I thought this would be more effective than just buying and distributing the pods, but also empowering the women in their business. Khayanga has supported the initiative by promising the women to attend the meeting that they set up to support them and talk as often the women don’t have the confidence themselves to talk in front of these often well-educated people.
To help support the incentive please donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/chelseasvolunteertripkenya
There is also work to include the government working forward. Some of the public school which are supported by the government send out disposable pads for the school. Why would the government not replace these with reusable kits, only having to send them out to new students once? A much more cost-effective solution for them!
I am so excited to watch this organisation grow and to watch the world grow with more women empowered through education, helping their countries to develop.
We had so much fun, thank-you Days for Girls, for having me! I look forward to working with this fantastic organisation more in the future. Learn more here: Days for Girls