Rainy days mean different things to different children: running outside to dance and pick up hailstones, staying dry indoors, taking careful steps to avoid puddles and potholes on the way to school. But for girls like Ruth, who only have one pair of panties, rainy days can be stressful, and can even keep her from participating in class.
Ruth, who is in class 5, lives in a pastoralist community in Kajiado County with her father and his two wives. Her mother isn’t the father’s favorite, so sometimes she and her children aren’t able to get the support they need from him. When he leaves with the cattle to find greener pastures Ruth’s mother is able to work for a bit of extra income, but after she pays for uniforms and shoes there’s little left. So when Ruth began menstruating, she relied on classmates to share their sanitary towels with her.
But of course sanitary towels can only be used with panties. And Ruth didn’t have a single pair, until her deskmate Florence brought her one. She was grateful, but when the rainy season came, she began to have problems. The panties would often still be wet when it was time for her to go to school. “I was forced to squeeze my wet panties with a dry cloth in the morning before I left for school,” she explains. “When I sat in class, I would get a wet patch on the back of my dress. I had to stay seated until my deskmate told me my dress was dry.”
Girl Child Network came to Ruth’s school to start a Rights of the Child Club, where students learn about their rights and get support to start school improvement projects. The students learned from Girl Child Network staff about how their bodies would change as they grew older, and how to use sanitary towels. And each girl received two new pairs of panties.
“When Girl Child Network intervened and provided panties to me and my classmates, my life changed,” Ruth explains. “I gained courage and improved my self-esteem in class because I had no fear of my wet panties. I could stand comfortably to answer and ask questions during lessons.”
And she’s doing even more at school than answering and asking questions. Ruth is now a leader in her Rights of the Child Club, organizing her classmates to take care of their poultry and garden projects. Girl Child Network has inspired her to give back to her school community: “I must improve someone’s life in the future, especially girls and boys undergoing the same challenges as me.”