January 26, 2016
Written by Jane Otai, Jhpiego
To be a girl in the Viwandani slum of Nairobi, Kenya, means sleeping in a one-room shack with as many as eight members of your family. It means convincing your parents that your monthly school fees are worth struggling to save for. It means scrounging for rags or old mattress stuffing to fashion a sanitary pad so you can go to school during that time of the month.
And for too many, it means ignorance about reproductive health.
I am a health care educator who has spent a decade working with women and families in the slums of Nairobi. When I meet with adolescents, as I did recently with a group of 75 in Viwandani, I talk about how to manage menstrual periods and the benefits of delaying pregnancy. On this particular visit, I was also there to deliver much-needed sanitary pads donated by girls’ schools in the Baltimore-Washington area.