It is the 24th of November and for 13 year-old Ajuna (not real name) it is that time of the month, again. A very common event for a young girl, but for Ajuna the remedy is less common. Living in the Kibera slum, paying for sanitary pads or tampons is not within her means, so with no real viable solutions, she sometimes turns to different “boyfriends” in order to get the money to pay for sanitary pads and be able to go to school when she has her period.
Mud, bark, and old socks are often used as alternatives to pads to keep her menstruation in check, but none of these solutions are good enough to get her through a school day without a bloodsmothered skirt. This is the reality for many girls Trading Sex for Sanitary Solutions living in Kibera and other slum areas in Kenya. As reported back in February 2012 by the Voice of America,the Mathare slum area is another place where NGO’s are familiar with the situation.
They cited a field officer, Lydiah Njoroge, from the Freedom for Girls Program that operate in the Mathare slum, who estimated that roughly 50 percent of the girls between the age 10-19 turn to prostitution in order to afford sanitary pads. Moraa Nelvin is working in the slums of Kibera as a sales representative for the menstrual cup brand Ruby Cup—a private business that is trying to provide a sustainable alternative for young girls. Unfortunately, Moraa is well acquainted with the problem: “A lot of the girls trade themselves to afford sanitary solution,”she says. Moraa has been a part of conducting surveys meant to assess the need for alternative sanitary solutions.
“We did research in Kibera in 100 households. The results were shocking. We couldn’t stand it. 65 percent of the girls said they had sold themselves (to afford sanitary solutions) at some point.” Ruby Cup has moved into the Kenyan market to introduce the menstrual cup—a sustainable cup made from medical grade silicon that lasts for ten years. Their primary target group are all Kenyan women and girls, but with a special focus on girls between 12-14 years old, an age bracket where the girls are particularly vulnerable when it comes to determining their future.
According to research done by the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda, “girls aged between 11 and 14 are absent for an average three and five days a month due to their menstrual periods.” When studying for the KCPE exams, the dreams of making a grade that will admit you to a good secondary school seems out of reach, if you have to stay home from school five days a month. Menstrual hygiene has reached it’s way to the top of the political agenda and the Kenyan Treasury has allocated Sh300 million for the 2012/2013 financial year for free sanitary towels to girls in primary school. For Ajuna and the many other girls who have turned to the desperate path of prostitution, one can only hope that this program is implemented quickly.
What is a menstrual cup?
Ruby Cup is a particular brand of menstrual cups, and it is re-usable for 10 years. It is inserted into the body, emptied when full and re-inserted again. After the period is over, you sterilize the Cup by boiling it, and it is ready for next month. Menstrual cups have been around for a decade in Europe and the States and are safe and environmentally friendly products. Ruby Cup is made of 100% high quality medical grade silicone, it has no side-effects, and it contains 3 times the quantity of conventional menstrual hygiene products meaning that you can spend a whole work day without having to empty it.
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By Jakob Nielsen