Social Issues

Distribution of sanitary pads curbs prostitution in Nairobi

By Patricia Martinez

Nairobi, Jun 8 (efe-epa).- Local organizations in Nairobi have increased door-to-door distribution of sanitary pads to prevent unwanted pregnancies from young women selling their bodies to buy hygiene products.

“In general when you are a student your parents give you some little pocket money, buy the sanitary pads for you or organizations like ours take them to the schools for free,” says Everlyne Bowa, founder of Agape Woman and Child Empowerment Foundation (AWOCHE) in Nairobi suburb of Kibera.

“Now many parents are out of work and their daughters are not going to school so if they don’t get information on how to get sanitary towels they will go to the boyfriend who gives them and that’s how they will get pregnant,” Bowa adds.

“That is most cases how you get the teen pregnancy because a man will give you money but he will expect you to give back through your body.”

The Kenyan government announced the distribution of free sanitary pads to 4.2 million students at state schools two years ago.

The move aimed to tackle truancy which is the norm for girls for about six weeks a year.

But the program was stopped after a few months and never reached schools in informal settlements in the suburbs.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further paralyzed social initiatives that allowed young women to acquire free sanitary products at education centers.

In an attempt to ensure young women continue to have access to pads and to avoid a spike in unwanted pregnancies, AWOCHE volunteers are delivering boxes of sanitary products to teenage girls who are unable to afford the packets of pads which cost around $0.68 in several areas.

Volunteers work alongside a local female guide who helps distribute the supplies.

Community organizations are leading an effective response in the face of the pandemic Amid the government’s apparent disregard for poor Nairobi neighborhoods, thousands of people were evicted in May and increased police violence has caused at least 17 deaths since the end of March.

“Yes, there are food donations but you have to meet someone to find out when they happen,” Cynthia Akinyi, a 19-year-old teenage mother, tells Efe.

Akinyi has no contact with the father of her two-year-old daughter.

“You see him once, regularly, depends on the person and the needs. It something common, people usually ask you: don’t you have a sponsor?” she says.

Sponsors are men who financially support a woman, generally younger ones, in exchange for sex.

Experts have criticized these relationships associated with poverty, child marriage and high rates of unwanted pregnancies in Kenya.

Unplanned pregnancies, which affect around 15 percent of young women, are directly linked with high levels of school dropouts for girls.

In addition to becoming pregnant at least one million girls in Kenya skip classes every month due to a lack of sanitary products, which are a luxury for most, according to data from the ZanaAfrica Foundation.

Around 65 percent of women and teenagers in the country cannot access pads, sanitary cups or tampons, particularly in rural areas.

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