From #Heels4Pads to free sanitary products at Nuria: Tribute to Jackline Chepng’eno

From #Heels4Pads to free sanitary products at Nuria: Tribute to Jackline Chepng’eno

The horrifying story of Jackline Chepng’eno, who committed suicide after she was shamed for soiling her dress when she got her first period, has ignited a movement.

On September 6, 2019, Kenyans woke up to devastating news that the 14-year-old had taken her own life after she told her parents about the humiliating ordeal.

It had been Jackline’s first period yet the teacher at Kabiangek Primary School in Konoin, Bomet had allegedly called her “dirty”.

Kenyans were furious! There were calls for the teacher to be sacked. Police said they would investigate but six months later, they are yet to reveal their findings.

Jackline Chepng’eno’s story may have only made headlines because of protests from several quarters but since then, Kenyans seem to have decided to take the matter into their own hands.

Instead of waiting for the government to properly implement the 2017 law that provides for all schoolgirls to get free sanitary pads, Kenyans are setting up their own donation programs.

One of them is #Heels4Pads that was founded by Monicah Muhoya and Angela Waweru alongside co-founder Angela Wambui under Sisterspeaks Global Ventures.

Since then, the trio have organized numerous events where they encourage people to donate their heels or pads.

This past weekend, #Heels4Pads was at the Arbor Place in Lavington: women donated pads in exchange for heels that had also been donated.

They have held similar events in Karen, Westlands with another one scheduled for Saturday, March 7 at The Alchemist.

The sanitary products are then given to established schools and organizations that support girls and women from deprived backgrounds.

On Monday, a cocktail event was hosted in honour of #Heels4Pads to help raise funds for over 400 girls from Mukuru slums: some of the proceeds will go to the initiative.

The Mukuru project is targeting to raise Ksh.24,000 by the end of this month and funds can be sent to Paybill no. 530100 Account No. H4P

And in Nairobi’s Central Business District, Nuria Store has set up a slightly different initiative: free pads for anyone who stops by the store and needs one.

The bookstore is offering free pads to girls and women, a move that acknowledges that sometimes women and girls are caught off-guard by their periods or they cannot afford to buy sanitary products.

Abdullahi Bulle, the proprietor of Nuria Bookstore, said he randomly helps people in need.

During an interview with Citizen Digital on Wednesday, he narrated how he came across two girls headed back to school and were struggling to carry their luggage: he decided to help.

It is after this encounter that he decided to start giving out sanitary pads at the bookstore.

“I started giving out the pads for free at our pick up point along Moi Avenue. Then two local authors shared the initiative on Twitter and Instagram,” Mr. Bulle said.

He believes that Nairobi and other towns in the country should have several pickup-points where any girl or woman in distress can pick sanitary products for free.

“The same idea should be replicated to serve mothers with babies,” he adds.

Media personality Janet Mbugua recently convened a Menstrual Health Management (MHM) conference where women from different backgrounds shared their period experiences.

— Janet Mbugua (@OfficialJMbugua) February 21, 2020

One of women, who is differently-abled, recounted an ordeal when she was a young girl in school and on her period.

“The pad I was using fell to the ground because of the way I walk (she uses crutches). The next day and every morning after that, I would tuck pieces of fabric in my underwear to avoid a repeat of that moment,” she said.

During a past interview, Janet Mbugua said it is this story and many others that drove her to write My First Time, a book that features stories of Kenyan women and the first time they got their period.

Janet Mbugua is a menstrual health activist actively pushing for solutions to period poverty and misinformation that is often what leads to shame.

She further avers that boys, girls, women and women all need to included in conversations around periods and there should be a more robust policy on menstrual health in Kenya.

— Janet Mbugua (@OfficialJMbugua) October 19, 2019

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