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The Impact of Reusable Sanitary Pads on Education in Kenya

Updated: 5 days ago

In many parts of the world, including Kenya, girls face significant challenges in managing menstruation, which often leads to them being absent from school. However, innovative solutions like reusable sanitary pads are assisting girls to stay in school and pursue their education without interruption.

Menstruation remains a taboo topic in many societies, including Kenya. Due to cultural norms and lack of education, girls often feel embarrassed or ashamed about menstruation, leading to silence and misinformation. Consequently, many girls lack access to proper menstrual hygiene products, impacting their health, well-being, and education.

Classroom of students holding up a packet of new reusable menstrual pads
Students holding up packets of menstrual pads, photo by Alison

Traditional disposable pads are often expensive and unaffordable for many families, forcing girls to resort to improvised materials like rags or even missing school altogether during their menstrual bleeding. Additionally, the lack of proper sanitation facilities in schools exacerbates the problem, leaving girls with no private or hygienic place to manage their periods.

Benefits of Reusable Sanitary Pads for Girls:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Reusable sanitary pads are a one-time investment that lasts for several months, even years, making them much more affordable than disposable pads in the long run. This affordability ensures that girls from all socioeconomic backgrounds can access menstrual hygiene products without financial strain on their families. For example, for less than $5 a deluxe pack of menstrual pads can be brought which includes pads for day and night time use.

  2. Health and Hygiene: Unlike improvised materials like rags, reusable sanitary pads are designed specifically for menstrual hygiene management. They provide better protection against leaks and reduce the risk of infections, promoting the health and well-being of girls during their periods.

  3. Environmental Sustainability: Traditional disposable pads contribute to environmental pollution, due to their non-biodegradable materials. In contrast, reusable pads are eco-friendly, as they can be washed and reused, reducing the amount of waste generated and mitigating environmental impact.

  4. Empowerment and Dignity: By providing girls with access to reusable sanitary pads, we empower them to manage their periods with dignity and confidence. Having reliable menstrual hygiene products allows girls to attend school regularly, participate in activities, and pursue their education without shame or discomfort.

  5. Educational Opportunities: Perhaps most importantly, reusable sanitary pads contribute to girls' educational opportunities, by reducing their absence from school during their menstruation. When girls can attend school consistently throughout the month, they have a better chance of academic success and achieving their full potential.

Recognising the urgent need to address this issue, organisations and initiatives in Kenya are promoting and supporting efforts to make reusable sanitary pads a sustainable and cost-effective solution. These pads are made from environmentally friendly materials and can be washed and reused multiple times, making them affordable and accessible to girls from low-income families.

Teacher holding a reusable menstrual pad and explaining its use to students in a classroom
Teacher showing how to use a reusable menstrual pad, photo by Alison

When I visited a local school in Kenya, I was made aware of this issue. I found an NGO project that is based in the capital city of Kenya, which is Nairobi, that works to tackle period poverty and the consequential barriers to education that girls experience. I now work with this project, where we focus on one school at a time, and I raise funds for the project through the wildlife safaris that I lead., Through these donations we are able to buy the relevant amount of reusable menstrual pads that each girl needs at the school. The NGO that I have partnered with goes to the school and delivers a 1-day workshop to the teachers and students (girls and also the boys) at the school.

Each girl is given a deluxe pack to keep and use, and each pack can last up to 5 years, if used correctly.


Semicircle of students holding the reusable menstrual pads, photo by Alison
Students at the end of the workshop, holding the reusable menstrual pads. Photo by Alison

In Kenya the introduction of reusable sanitary pads is transforming the lives of girls by breaking the barriers to education that may arise when they are menstruating. These innovative and sustainable solutions not only address the practical challenges of managing periods but also promote health, dignity, and empowerment among girls in Kenyan schools. It’s an honour to be part of the effort to give girls the opportunity to further their education and live up to their full potential.

"Before the pandemic I was living and working in Africa for 17 years, and during this time I was working in tourism. I spent a lot of my free time helping with conservation and community based projects. I returned to the UK during the pandemic, and got involved with GenEarth, helping to deliver online workshops covering conservation and wildlife to primary school students."

Alison runs her own photography business and travel advising business, do check those out!

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