Fifteen-year-old Jacinta Mutethya lives with her mother Jemimah Kalemi, in Mathare, one of the most densely populated informal settlements in Nairobi.
The challenge of menstrual hygiene management goes beyond just accessing sanitary pads. For many girls like Jacinta, menstruation comes at a high cost.
“There is no money, their mothers have no money (to pay for a shower) because they have to consolidate funds for meals,” she said.
That is why ‘Shower for Girls’ project, an initiative by Plan International, a development and humanitarian organisation, is so vital. It pays for girls like Jacinta Mutehya and Glorian Wairimu to access bathroom services.
“We wanted to ensure that we are responding to specific needs for girls in a way that is very personal and is transformative,” said Kate Maina-Vorley, Country Director at Plan International.
The project was started to ease the burden on both girls and their parents, torn between the option of putting food on the table and addressing sanitary needs.
Initially, most of these needs were being addressed in schools which distribute free sanitary pads and provide bathrooms and toilets. But with the closure of schools and a shortage of water, the project has become a lifeline for many here.
“Before corona, life was good as we were in school where we would get enough water and you would shower in the mornings and evenings,” said Glorian Wairimu.
“Now when we are home, you find yourself showering once a day or you even skip a day without showering because of water,” she added.
Plan International is hoping to expand the initiative to reach more girls. It is calling on the government of Kenya to prioritise hygiene for girls as part of its ongoing response to the pandemic.