Keeping Girls in Class One Pad at a Time

300M for needy girls’ sanitary towels

Another Budget day!

For those of us who heard the Prime Minister promise a whooping 2.6B in this years budget for sanitary towels, you must admit it was quite unbelievable. Finally we were making big steps towards ensuring girls never miss school due to their menses..Was it a campaign promise? was he too ambitious?

Nonetheless, if you were waiting for the budget to be read to confirm, you must have been as disappointed as i was.

Treasury has allocated Ksh 300M for the 2012/2013 financial year to providing sanitary towels to girls from poor families .


” Finance Minister Njeru Githae said on Thursday that this would only benefit those in primary schools.“I urge honourable members and Kenyans at large to be fully involved to strictly ensure only deserving orphaned, poor and needy children benefit from these interventions,” he said in his budget statement.

Forget that the Prime Minister had requested 2.6B to be allocated to the cause. Ksh 300M is a drop in the ocean, compared to the need that we have in Kenya. What do we do about it? Do we sit down and wait for another financial year and see what the allocation will be? I don’t think so.

I am encouraged daily by the number of women working day and night to ensure we find a solution to access of sanitary towels to poor girls.

What can you do in your capacity? Join us at 1%Club as we try and raise funds to source and disctribute both disposable and re-usable towels to under privileged girls in our society.


‘Adopt a Girl’ at our Fundraising Friday

Did you know the best thing you can give someone is a chance?

This Friday, Maisha Mapya Initiative will be run a fundraiser under the 1% Club platform where tweeps will share their knowledge,time or money to give under privileged girls an opportunity to stay in school to fully compete with the rest of the class because they stay at home until the end of their monthly periods. (


A recent study conducted by APHRC and the Division of Reproductive Health, Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation shows that “because pads are not always available, girls and women in these communities are forced to use cotton wool, cloths (including socks), tissue paper, pages torn from school exercise books, and pieces of sponge torn from mattresses to manage their menstrual flow.”

How To ‘Adopt A Girl’

It costs Ksh 400  (US$ 5) to supply a girl with a whole year’s supply of sanitary towels. We are encouraging friends and family to take up the challenge and ‘adopt a girl’ for a whole year.

That does not mean that you cannot give less. Ksh 100 will ‘adopt a girl’ for a 3 months (quarter) Ksh 200 will ‘adopt a girl’ for 6 months.

You can also adopt more than one girl!!

The first phase is supplying 325 girls in Kamenu Primary School in Thika with a whole year supply of sanitary towels. The girls in this school turn to rags,pieces of cloths and chunks of mattresses  and other unorthodox methods ,in combination with a lack of accessible water supply,are unhygienic and potential harmful.

The second phase is to set up a workshop where we will be making re-usable sanitary towels for girls in rural areas. MMI together with the women in the communities will manufacture and distribute affordable, quality pads made from organic cotton.

Do you want to ‘adopt a girl’ now?

Go to the M-PESA Menu on your phone.

Select Pay Bill Option.

Enter the following business number: 510800.

Enter 1045 as the Account Number.

Enter the total amount you want to donate.

Enter your PIN and then send the money.

You will receive a transaction confirmation SMS from M-PESA.

Click on this link to direct you to their 1%CLUB profile

Enter the returned M-PESA Transaction ID in the form on that page.

(you can alternatively forward the MPesa text to Kamaitha on 0707 178 946)

Women as stakeholders in the Sanitary Business

Stand up and be counted

Don’t you think its time menstrual periods was talked about and not a taboo amongst African girls? Did they ask for monthly periods? Did they register when they reached puberty?

For the educated and able girl, Ksh 500 US 8 is what is needed monthly to cater for their menses. Did you know that for such an amount, you can supply an under privileged girl with a year supply of re-usable sanitary towels?

Don’t you think its time women became stakeholders of the Sanitary towels ?

Apart from missing classes during their periods, many schools in underprivileged areas lack sufficient sanitation facilities which are vital not only during a girl’s period but at all times generally such as water, adequate toilet facilities and appropriate dumping facilities for sanitary wear.

As a result, menstruating girls opt to stay at home due to lack of facilities to help them manage their periods than go to school.

The need for affordable sanitary wear for women and girls in Africa is indeed a major public health issue that governments need to prioritize in their planning.

On the other hand, there is need for social innovation around this issue because the need for sanitary wear among girls and women will forever be there, at least in the long term future.

Thus the question, can women be the primary stakeholders of the Sanitary towels business? Can they make their own and sell to others at an affordable price?

If Men Could Menstruate…..

I came across an article an article by Gloria Steiten and I could not help but laugh.Let me share a few pieces.

“What if men could menstruate? The answer is clear – menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event. Men would brag about how long and how much.

Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free…

Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“men-struation”) as proof that only men could serve in the Army or occupy political office?”), be priest and ministers ” 

The line that caught my eye was ‘Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free.

Did you know that Sanitary towels and tampons are a luxury to women in the developing world?  Half the girls are missing school due to menstruation and the main reason given is that sanitary pads are too expensive.

For women, 24% miss work—up to 45 days per year—for the same reason. This not only limits girls’ educational and women’s professional achievement, but leads to a significant economic loss for nations.

The lack of affordable hygienic products and facilities, compounded by negative cultural attitudes, has profoundly and adversely affected the education of puberty-age girls in Africa. According to UNICEF, one in 10 school-age African girls stays home during her period or drops out entirely. As reported in this Project’s briefing papers, “In countries where menstrual hygiene is taboo, girls in puberty are typically absent for 20 percent of the school year.” Nor is this quandary limited to adolescence; working women also lose productive time during their periods. And even women who attend classes and jobs despite a lack of access to sanitary protection often substitute materials such as bark, rags or mud, with detrimental health consequences.

How can we make sanitary towels affordable? 

Do we ask for donations month in ,month out?

In Kenya, the manufacturing of sanitary towels are in the hands of few companies, and only the middle class and the wealthy can afford it. What happens to the rest of the women. Do they suffer in silence and shame? Is there a way out for them?

Wouldn’t it be nice if women became stakeholders in the Sanitary towels business?

Wouldn’t it be great  for women to rely on local sources for sanitation and toilet facilities.  Wouldn’t it be ideal for   women to use sanitary napkins made of local materials that could be reused.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was  no stigma associated with menstruation in Kenya  and girls wouldn’t have to hide in shame when they hit puberty.

If Men could Menstruate by Gloria Steinen

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

The answer is clear – menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:

Men would brag about how long and how much.

Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.

Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.

Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali’s Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields – “For Those Light Bachelor Days,” and Robert “Baretta” Blake Maxi-Pads.)

Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation (“men-struation”) as proof that only men could serve in the Army (“you have to give blood to take blood”), occupy political office (“can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?”), be priest and ministers (“how could a woman give her blood for our sins?”) or rabbis (“without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean”).

Male radicals, left-wing politicians, mystics, however, would insist that women are equal, just different, and that any woman could enter their ranks if she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month (“you MUST give blood for the revolution”), recognize the preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment. Street guys would brag (“I’m a three pad man”) or answer praise from a buddy (“Man, you lookin’ good!”) by giving fives and saying, “Yeah, man, I’m on the rag!” TV shows would treat the subject at length. (“Happy Days”: Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still “The Fonz,” though he has missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS MENSTRUATING MEN. JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.) And movies. (Newman and Redford in “Blood Brothers”!)

Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at “that time of the month.” Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself – though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.

Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets – and thus for measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?

Liberal males in every field would try to be kind: the fact that “these people” have no gift for measuring life or connecting to the universe, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.

And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women agreeing to all arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. (“The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month”: Phyllis Schlafly. “Your husband’s blood is as sacred as that of Jesus – and so sexy, too!”: Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitate men, and pretend to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly that men, too, needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian aggressiveness, just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses envy. Radical feminist would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was the pattern for all other oppressions (“Vampires were our first freedom fighters!”) Cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to monopolize menstrual blood . . . .

In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever.

If we let them.


The No Missing Period Coz of Periods Campaign

The No Missing Period Coz of Periods Campaign

The ‘No Missing Periods Because of Periods’ Project, a girl-child program of Maisha Mapya Initiative (MMI) aimed at distributing sanitary towels and underwear to under-privileged girls as part of the effort to increase female attendance in schools.

Did you know that an average girl misses at least 4 days of class due to her menses monthly, which is a sure threat to the realization of the gender equity and equality in education in Kenya.

What can we do to turn the situation round?

Keep A Girl in Class

Did you know that ….. A girl absent from school due to menses for 4 days in 28 days (a month) loses 13 learning days equivalent to 2 weeks of learning in every school term.

In a year (9 months) a girl loses 39 learning days equivalent to 6 weeks of learning time. A girl in primary school between grades 6 and 8 (3 years) loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks.

Within the 4 years of high school the same girl loses 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning in High school!!

This is a clear indication that a girl child is a school drop-out while still in school

Interview with 1% Club

Just as the project title reads, someone somewhere realized girls from poor backgrounds were missing lessons, simply because they could not afford Sanitary towels! Meet Florence Kamaitha and Evans Muriu, who have a cause to raise funds to set up a factory to reproduce re-usable sanitary towels.
Here is their story

What is the name of your project: No Missing Periods coz of Periods.


School girls at the Maisha Mapya programme

Why did you choose the project : We visited a school in Thika, and the head teacher shared the plight of the girls,. The school unblocks toilets every week, as the girls in the school use pieces of clothes, blankets and chunks of mattresses during their menses. This is very unhygienic, but the bitter part of the story is that most of them cannot not afford sanitary towels, and with everyone around the country trying to raise funds to buy the sanitary towels and donate to the girls, we thought we could come up with a better, economic and hygienic way to solve this problem….re-usable Sanitary towels.
What is the inspiration behind the project: We were informed that some girls miss school during their menses 4 days every 28 days. The same girl will lose 13 days each term because of her menses. In a whole academic year, she will lose up to 39 days, which is 6 weeks of learning time. If we don’t help solve the situation now, we will have drop –outs while still in school and thus the name, No Missing Periods coz of Periods.

How many people are in your team to execute this project: Five people plus volunteers we hope to get along the way.

How do you plan to meet the target amount/Make It Work: We plan an intense fundraising campaign on social media, friends and family contributions plus the help of corporate companies.

What are your expectations after the my1pc campaign: We hope we will create awareness of the plight of Kenyan girls around the world. We hope to raise our targeted amount and we hope to network with members around the world.

Tell us about your group: Maisha Mapya Initiative, is a  year old and consists of five members. We sponsor bright students from under-privileged families to access Secondary Education. Currently we are setting up a Music Academy to help children learn to play music instrument from an early age. Another role we play is helping young Kenyans discover their talents and opportunities and use them to fend for themselves.

Best moment in your group: We managed to raise funds online and take the girls who had the highest marks in KCPE from Pokot district to Alliance Girls High School in less than two days. She was about to lose her slot in the school as she wasn’t able to afford the fees.

Your message for all the fans outside there:  If girls miss classes because of periods, it is a sure threat to the realization of the gender equity and equality in education in Kenya. It follows therefore ,that Kenya as a country is unlikely to achieve Education for all (EFA) Goals,Gender Parity by 2015 and the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

Something must be done by everyone. However little the contribution, it will keep a girl in school and keep their opportunities alive.


Pad Heaven Re-Usable Sanitary Towels


Through the 1% Club , Maisha Mapya Initiative has initiated a project called ‘Pad Heaven’ to produce re-usable sanitary towels through girls and women in the rural areas.

The 1% Club  is the online marketplace that connects people with smart ideas in developing countries with people, money and knowledge around the world.

The project targets single women and girls and equips them with skills to produce the towels for their use and for sale to other members in the community which in turn becomes an income generating project for them.


‘Pad Heaven’ project aims to reduce absenteeism of girls from school and to empower girls to compete with the rest of the class and pursue their dreams.
The project will also enable women to earn a living and provide for their children especially the single mothers in the communities.

We also hope that this will discourage young girls from engaging from early se to get money to buy basics like sanitary towels.

Why Pad Heaven Re-Usable Towels

  • Made from organic cotton, the towels are durable
  • Since they are re-usable,they are environmental friendly
  • They are soft and comfortable thus causing less irritation.
  • they are ffordable

A packet of Pad heaven costs Ksh 400 and contains 4 towels both for normal flow and for heavy flow. They also come with an airtight bag for storage of the used towels.

The towels in the pack will last up to a year.



We also plan to train women and girls in the communities on the production, usage and hygiene maintenance of the reusable towels.

We will have professional designers and tailors to coach the girls on producing the sanitary towels.We will have a team that will help market and sell the towels to the community.

We hope that within 9 months, the project will be self sustaining.


Th need for sanitary pads can never be out of business because supply of sanitary pads is a never-ending demand –supply cycle prompting more creativity and aggressiveness from the producers.


The main challenges facing the ‘Pad Heaven’ project is water. Most communities do not have adequate water, while the reusable towels need a lot of water to clean and ensure it can be used the next

Keeping Girls in Class

For many of us growing up, sanitary towels was a basic need especially if you were in a boarding school. It came as a surprise when we visited a school to do our quarterly community service to schools.

Growing up, girls started their menses at 14years  -class 8 going onto form one. It came as a shock to learn that girls in this particular school had started their periods as early as 10 years. In total, there are 325 girls between the ages of 10 -14yrs who are already in their menses. These girls come from very poor backgrounds and they are benefitting from free primary education offered by the government. Uniforms and books is still a big hurdle for the parents.That means sanitary towels to them are a pure luxury to these girls.

Some things that we take for granted like sanitary pads could determine the future of girls and women in some communities of the developing countries

Dreams of girls from under privileged families are  shelved due to challenges related to monthly periods and early pregnancy.

Did you know that HIV infection rates in girls are 4 times that of boys the same age mainly because girls from under privileged families engage in sex at an early age as a way of earning a living?
The Government of Kenya has proposed a Ksh2.6B sanitary towels project to be donated to girls in rural areas and marginalized areas. This is proposed to come into effect in the 2012 -2013 budget. With the elections around the corner, this in my opinion will be implemented in 2014.

If however it is implemented in 2013, the depth of impunity in this country will see ‘ghost schools’ getting sanitary towels and the real schools not getting anything.

What do we do till then? Do we wait for the Government to be free of corruption? Will we wait for donations year in, year out? What is the long term solution for this?

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