I woke up with sunrise today to sounds of chicken, cows and mama Josephat singing along a radio. Seems there was a battery left from the last charge. There is no electricity in our temporary Namboboto home.
We (Fountain Youth Initiative‘s Lillian, Josephat and Martin, and volunteers Shae, Anne and I) arrived to Namboboto village near Busia, close to Ugandan border, after 8 hours long ride on Tuesday. Compared to always cool Nairobi, the heat here is hard to stand and both people and animals are hiding in pieces of shade. My favorite spot is under a mango tree where I can pick ripe pieces of mango fallen on the ground and get all dirty and sticky from its sweet juices.
But we are not here for a countryside retreat. Once I finish my morning Kenyan tea, there are supplies of uniforms and books being brought by bus from Nairobi that we will distribute to the poorest of children in the village area. In paralel, we will be also giving out sanitary pads for teenage girls in two schools.
As idyllic as this place seems for those who come for a few days, poverty and hardship is everyday reality. Despite that, people are kind and humble and rarely complain. Yet, to send a child to school is for many an unaffordable luxury. Girls are even more disadvantaged, because their education is an investment that will get lost to the benefit of her future husbands family.
Distribution of sanitary pads that goes hand in hand with mentorship on menstruation, relationships, friendship and health is the founding and most important project of Fountain. Issues pop up every day. In a country where traditions and religion are so important, it is difficult to educate girls about birth control and HIV protection. It is a fight of common sense and responsibility against tradition, religious faith and men’s pride. It is persistance and determination that over time helps to change the society. Kidogo-kidogo, Kenyans would say – little by little.
Girls’ empowerement starts by bringing and keeping girls in schools. In poor areas like Namboboto, it is often seen that girls skip school during their period, simply because they cannot offer sanitary pads. If menstruation comes unexpectedly during a school day, a girl faces not only discomfot and hygienic issues but also embarassment and may opt for dropping school altogether. For this reason, Reproductive health programme and the Sanitary pads project are the underlying initiatives of Fountain Youth.
Fountain runs the Sanitary pads project also in Githurai, Nairobi. As cooperation with another NGO on this project is coming to an end, and Fountain has a stock available that will only last until August 2017, we will face a major challenge in securing funds to be able to maintain the project at its current size. If we succeed in finding a longer term larger donor, more schools can be served and more girls can stay healthy, confident and finish school without issues. For now wish us the best to at least maintain the project at the current size. We do not wish to turn our girls down.