By Andrew Ombuni
A university student is putting a smile on the face of school going girls from the slums and vulnerable families by giving them free sanitary towels, tampons and uniforms.
Gabriella Adut, 21, a fourth year student at the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) for the last two years has been reaching out to over 2,000 pupils in at least five counties; giving them comfort in schools.
Despite the fact that she is not a Kenyan, Ms Adut from the Dinka community in South Sudan has been able to achieve what Kenyans who have all the resources at their disposal have not been doing.
So far, Ms Adut and her team have distributed sanitary pads in schools and children homes in Kibera slums, Mlolongo, Ruaka and Utawala in Nairobi County. Other areas are Naivasha, Nakuru, Narok, Migori and Kisii. They are planning to visit Kakamega, Kisumu and Bungoma counties next month.
In an interview yesterday in Kakamega town while mapping out the schools she wants to visit next month, Adut said the idea was conceptualized in February last year when they (scouts) were camping in Kibera slums.
Adut said she encountered a young girl aged 11, near the place they were camping having a stained skirt since she had no means of getting sanitary pads to use during her menses use to abject poverty.
“As a scout, I approached her and she informed me that her parents are unemployed and due to poverty, they (parents) prefer buying food with the little money they have as opposed to buying them (young girls) in the slums sanitary pads,” said Adut.
Having been raised lived at Kakuma refugee camp for over 10 years as a refugee, she was really touched with the challenges the girls were going through and founded a lobby to help in addressing their challenges dubbed ‘‘Her Flow My Concern’.
She said majority of the affected girls from poor and vulnerable families were dropping out of school or missing lessons during their menses.
“If a girl missed three days a month during her menses, with each day having seven lessons a day, our younger sisters miss at least 252 lessons in a year which in turn affects their performance in class. Over 65 per cent of women and girls across the country from venerable families don’t have access to sanitary pads and tampons,” said Adut.
She said such challenges were the reasons behind young girls in the slums being forced to engage in sexual relations in exchange of pads so that they can be in school even during their menses, saying the move was a recipe for the ever increasing teenage pregnancies and spread of HIV/Aids.
“When we aren’t in class and during weekends, we raise funds by hawking second hand clothes and fast foods within the university premises, forfeit lunch, contributions through WhatsApp groups from fellow students through and donations from the public,” said Adut.
She said they use the money to buy sanitary pads and innerwear (three panties per pupil) and take to the selected schools.
Adut said there CBO has not been registered as officers have turned them away many times from the social services department since a South Sudanese citizen started it.
“We had targeted 300 girls at a school in Narok but we were shocked when over 1000 lined up to receive sanitary pads. If we can get government help and corporates we can reach more girls so that our project can sustain itself in future,’ said Stacy Anyango, her partner.
Monicah Atieno, the deputy principal of Sindani primary school in Suna West Sub County confirmed that the students came and distributed sanitary towels to all the girls of her school.
“They are doing a great job and they need support of everyone. We can help them through fundraisings and charity donations and help them reach to more girls since the pads they give aren’t enough but they are needed every time,” said Ms Atieno.
Ben Mwenda Moses, the deputy headteacher, Ololoipang Primary School in Narok South Sub County, said Gabriella and her colleagues brought the sanitary towels to the school and the girls were happy.
“These girls are determined and they are doing a good job. They gave pupils in classes five-eight sanitary towels and even taught them how they are used and maintaining their hygiene. As a girl who has been a refugee and engaged in charity work needs the help of all Kenyans to reach to many girls,” said Mr Mwenda.