This region of Kenya has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and as a result has many child-led households (no parents living.)
Many teenage girls are unable to attend school because they lack adequate protection during their menstruation. The Keep a Girl in School (KaGiS) project aims to enable vulnerable, orphaned girls to have a continuous education by providing sanitary towels (ST’s) for the school days.
It costs KaGiS just £3 to buy sufficient sanitary towels for one girl to attend school throughout the school year!
How it began
In January 2011 Peggy and Rhoda visited the Upendo project in Oyugis in rural Western Kenya as part of an Amani UK team. The local field staff took the team to various projects being supported – schools, orphans' homes, women's groups, community co-operatives, clinic etc.
In spite of the conditions and lack of equipment in the schools - often no chairs or proper desks, few books or writing materials, over-crowded conditions, no proper flooring or walls, insufficient teachers, etc. - they were struck by the dedication of the teaching staff and the enthusiasm of the children themselves.
The children were so keen to go to school and get an education and the older ones often returned in the evenings or weekends to do extra work in order to pass their exams. The teachers too, willingly gave up their spare time to coach the children, knowing that without an education there was little hope of escaping their impoverished lifestyle.
Sophie, the project leader for Amani, took Peggy and Rhoda to visit a recently orphaned family comprising 3 teenage girls and a younger brother. It was at this point that Peggy and Rhoda learnt how difficult it was for girls to complete their education. The girls were ashamed to admit that they were unable to attend school during the week they were menstruating and when pressed revealed that they used rags or worse for sanitary protection. Rather than face the indignity and embarrassment of soiled clothing they missed school altogether and catching up missed lessons (9 weeks in a year) is incredibly difficult; it is so much easier to drop out.
And yet, so keen are girls to continue their education, in some cases they are willing to trade ‘favours’ for ST’s. This obviously leads to low self-esteem, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and very early pregnancy. In an area in which HIV/AIDS is rife, this can have disastrous consequences for the girls themselves and the community in general.
Peggy and Rhoda learnt of Sophie's vision to enable these vulnerable girls to attend school full time and complete their education. This was firmly printed on their minds and they returned to the UK determined to help. Providing ST’s would not only protect the girls from embarrassment and give them self-confidence as they complete their education, but ultimately benefit the whole community in the fight against poverty.
Progress so far
Through the funding provided by KaGiS and working closely with the two Kenyan projects whose workers fully support the scheme, it is now up and running and today the ST’s are going directly to those in most need in secondary schools in the area.
From the small beginnings in 2012, KaGiS is now in 2016 providing support for 1,300 orphaned and vulnerable girls in 12 large secondary schools and they aim to sustain this for the length of their education.
The Kenya schools system only allows students to progress to the next year when they have passed the National exams, so each secondary school year is not a natural cross-section of the population at a particular age, but rather a reflection on who has made progress. Where girls are being handicapped by their monthly periods, then there will predictably be fewer female students with each secondary year, through to the final year.
There are too many factors at play to be able to reliably measure changes in the academic performance of the girls receiving ST support, but it is possible to measure attendance improvement and this is now being done. The early indications suggest that girls’ attendance is closing up with the boys’ level. As each year passes it should be possible to see the real effect KaGiS support is having on their achievements and this will be reported through this webpage.
We are exploring the possibility of making re-usable sanitary towels locally, providing work for local people and ploughing back any profit made to support the KaGiS project.
A longer term aim is to improve toilet facilities at schools so that girls and boys have separate toilet blocks, giving them privacy and washing facilities.
Ways to help:
- Make a donation
- Set up a standing order
- Send us your unwanted foreign and or obsolete coins
- Collect your loose change
- Ask us to give a presentation at a coffee morning/gathering of friends, relatives, work or social groups