I’ve been to Kenya a number of times. Half my family is from there so it’s inevitable every couple of years we would go visit my granddad in Nairobi. It was only when I was 17 that I first saw another side to Kenya. The school I visited in the Kibera slums was a roughly built two story shack made from wood and corrugated metal. There were 90 kids in a classroom and one teacher for all of them. They sat in tiny classrooms from 6am to 6pm where they were given one meal a day, courtesy of donations. But besides all that, there was dancing and singing and laughter. The children wore their uniforms with pride as they ran in and out of classrooms, socialising, learning, appreciating that they were the lucky ones. To them, I was some foreign girl with a big camera and a posh accent. What right did I have to intrude their education? I was a second generation Kenyan but what was I doing to show for it? Still living in the comfort of a free education, a network of like-minded people and friends fortunate enough to have disposable money, why wasn’t I making good use of my resources?
Project Period started from the realisation that girls are all united by this monthly annoyance. Periods. It was created by a group of 18 year olds who found they had something they could personally identify with these girls and for a while it made us on the same page. Although we are from completely different situations, we all fear leaks, get cramps, feel the same relief when the bleeding's over. It’s only because of our financial backgrounds that we don’t have to worry about the most natural and normal thing a woman can do. But for these girls, the fact that they are women threatens their futures.
On average, a girl will miss two months a year because of her period. Along with the mental agony of trying to figure out where she could find a sanitary product, she is homebound for the next week bleeding on towels and old materials. Or she is selling her body to get money to buy the products. Or she is stealing just to provide a means in which she can go to school. For these students, education is one of the key ways they can bring themselves out of poverty. But they are held back by the lack of reusable sanitary products. Their independence is hindered by the fact they have to rely on other people to help them with something that over half the human population experiences.
Menstrual cups are a way in which we can provide a sustainable solution to the issue of missing school and also give these girls the independence to take control their futures. Not only does the menstrual cup provide them with the comfort of knowing they don’t have to dread their period, but it also gives them the responsibility to take care of their bodies, a responsibility which has been out of their hands for too long. To grow into a young woman and progress in education, every female student should have the confidence to make choices for herself. It was never their choice to miss school.