To say that a girl remains vulnerable in the twenty-first century is not an overstatement, especially with reference to so called “third-world countries” (Kenya included). Despite the fact that girls numerically supersede their male counterparts, they still appear to lag behind in terms of reaching their full social and academic potential. While many arguments can be generated as to whether society provides a level playing ground for both boys and girls, the fact that there are natural differences in genetic make-up that predispose the girl child to vulnerability can hardly be a subject of debate. Besides many other confounding factors, biological events in her life such as the onset of menstruation pose a rude awakening to the girl. She is hindered further as society condones an attitude of indifference concerning the lack of mechanisms to prepare her adequately for adulthood. As the girl struggles, her self-esteem suffers, and her chances for success are further reduced.
To address these problems, ACTS has established the Girl Child Advocacy Mentorship and Sanitary Towel Project for young girls in the Nyanza province. This program is comprised of a sanitary towels bank, educational courses on puberty and sexual development, and an awareness campaign to raise concern for the issues of girls in this area. Currently ACTS is partnering with nine primary and Secondary schools, namely :- Pala mixed secondary school,Anyiko mixed secondary school,Lundha mixed secondary school, Ng'iya mixed secondary school,Tieng're mixed secondary school,Manyatta Primary school,Kosawo primary school,Argwengs Kodhek mixed secondary school,and St. Mathews Saradidi mixed secondary school in the region to bring sanitary towels and support to girl students there.
Despite the many concerted efforts and resources deployed for the rescue of girls in Kenya, there still remain innumerable gaps that need filling in. Previous efforts have been concentrated in provision of monetary and material needs. However, the psychosocial well-being of these girls, especially during the ages of 8-14 years, is an area that continues to be neglected. It has been shown that puberty is occurring at increasingly earlier ages in girls today. However, there is a general lack of mentorship as she is experiencing these changes. The traditional social forum of siwidhe (meaning grandmother’s house) where a girl of this age found mentorship through orientation no longer exists due to the current social dynamics influenced by Western culture. Previously, when a girl would come of age, she would participate in certain rituals with the women of her community that would usher her into adulthood. Now, this mechanism of support has been destroyed by the rocky adjustments as Africa tries to find footing in a changing lifestyle. Thus, the girl is left alone as she tries to navigate the process of growing up. Consequently, confusion, low self-esteem, and poor performance become constants in the girl’s life.
ACTS has established an Advocacy, Mentorship and Sanitary towel program for young girls in the Nyanza province. This program is comprised of several areas of concentration, including the creation of a bank of sanitary towels, the development of an educational course to help girls positively and constructively handle their new experiences, and an awareness campaign focused on the vulnerable situation that these girls are in.
The program rationale is based on the premise that the social structures in our society do not adequately address the challenges a young girl faces as a result of her biological developments. The cultural inhibitions on sexual matters have resulted in lack of forum to communicate to the girl an understanding of herself in respect to her sexual well being. Consequently, the maturation events in the girl’s life profoundly affect her psychologically, socially, academically, and sometimes even biologically.
If a girl begins to menstruate between the ages of 8 and 13 years, and she receives little to no support during this time, she experiences acute confusion as she tries to navigate her development. At the extreme, a girl will withdraw from her normal activities as she experiences her monthly cycle. If she is uneducated about her own sexual development, a girl may even regard her period as a personal and shameful secret not to be shared with her family or guardians. If she is uneducated about her own sexual development, a girl may even regard her period as a personal and shameful secret not to be shared with her family or guardians. Since schools in Kenya do not offer education on sexual and reproductive health, a girl usually only obtains knowledge on these matters through friends or outside organizations. Often, if a girl lives in a poor community, she will use unhygienic clothing, papers, or plastic in an attempt to care for herself during this time. These materials often result in bacterial or fungal infections. If her family cannot afford sanitary towels or other materials, a girl will skip school during her menstrual cycle, and her academic performance will suffer accordingly. The girl becomes increasingly disoriented from her academic, social, and familial life, and she can experience conflict with school authorities, her peers, and her family. Nyanza is the second poorest province in Kenya; a fact which exacerbates the situation of a young girl growing in this region.
Sometimes, in the effort to make money to buy necessities like sanitary towels, young girls are lured into the sex trade. Discovering that they can make money in this way, girls will then drop out of school and can influence their peers to do the same. If a girl becomes pregnant due to this profession, and lack of proper sexual education, she might feel pressured to get married prematurely, and often into an unhealthy relationship. Girls who participate in prostitution and the like are also at an increased risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.
The Girl Child Mentorship and Sanitary Towel Project establishes an intensive approach to support girls as they grow to young women. ACTS not only provides these girls with sanitary towels and other proper materials, but offers life-skills training and sex education to increase knowledge and build self-esteem. Our educational program is linked with the Sanitary Towel Bank as a two-fold prevention and empowerment program for young girls.
Our goal in the Girl Child Advocacy, Mentor ship and Sanitary Towel Project is to empower the girl child for life. We aim to do this by:
- ensuring the girls stays in school
- establishing an intensive support program for young girls that provides Advocacy Mentor ship and encouragement
- educating the girls to make informed decisions regarding their sexuality, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS awareness
- creating awareness in society concerning the vulnerable position of the girls
- maintaining a sustainable sanitary towel bank to support the girls
ACTS has focused the Girl Child Mentor ship and Sanitary Towel Project on primary schoo and Secondary school girls, ages 8 years and above. These girls are eligible for the program if they are total orphans, partial orphans, or living under difficult conditions. ACTS staff completes a rigorous examination process of the girl and her situation before allowing entry into the program.
Currently, ACTS are sponsoring at least 50 girls per school.
Girls sponsored meet twice every month, First with both the school and community mentors for a one to two hours mentorship programmer, aimed at creating awareness and buiding their capacity in the area of Sexuality, Reproductive sexual health, Self awareness , Communications and Leadrship and asecond time in a month to receive Sanitary towels from the Sani Bank.Students in the programme are further encouraged to participate in identified social and environmntal programmes within the community such as clean up of the immediate environment,support of the vulnerablele and elderly citizen
There are such high numbers of needy girls, even remaining in our partner schools, who we cannot reach due to lack of funding, sponsorship, and sanitary towel donations. We consistently have more schools applying to enroll in our program than we are financially capable of supporting,
- Ordinary Membership: contribute your support when you decide
- Associate Membership: make a commitment to contribute an agreed amount to support the girl child on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis
- Institutional/Corporate Membership: as a group or institution, partner with us to support the girl child