The joy and hope of the girls we meet in Kenya is powerful and palpable. Their perseverance amid many challenges inspires us daily and deepens our commitment to continue our work. Each girl has a story; we hope to share a few we've had the good fortune to meet below.
"I need to go to secondary school and finish university and do many many things. Maybe even become a professor in this country."
We met and interviewed Farida in Kajiampau, Kenya, in 2016. Animated, confident and thoughtful, Farida, 15, lives with her mother and six siblings and is at the top of her class in math. She hopes one day to be married. But, as she asserted, only after she attains a university education.
"Before you were coming with the pads, some of the girls were refusing to come to school because their parents don't have money to buy those pads. Some of the girls were using pieces of old blankets or mattresses. Some of the girls were refusing to come to school because of fearing to be laughed at by boys during their menstruation period.
"In some places, a girl can get pregnant and then she misses coming to school, or because she gets a baby, or she gets married....A girl gets cheated by a boy and gets pregnant and then she stays at home and misses her education. Here (in Kajiampau,) there are some girls who have got pregnant who have not even finished Class Eight; this has happened to many girls.
"I need to be able to grow up to finish my education," explained Farida, in answer to our question as to what she would want people in the U.S. to know about her. "At the time I finish my education, I can get married. But only after I finish university. I want to be a big person in the world. Because then you can be treated well and help other people."
We couldn't do our work without the support of committed advocates in the communities we partner with. They are teachers, leaders, and mothers; each becomes a key link to the villages in which we work, helping us mobilize to create positive futures for everyone. Nyaga, a District Manager in Kaare, began to help coordinate our outreach in 2014. When he was asked to help For the Good Period organize girls for a pad distribution in 2015, he brought a deep level of dignity to the process. As a leader in his community, Nyaga has also been instrumental in helping us understand the necessary channels and cultural norms of rural Kenyan villages to ensure that our work is accepted and lasting. Through his assistance, For the Good Period is beginning dialogues with villagers in Kaare to look for ways we can improve the local primary school infrastructure to better support the girls of the community.
"Knowing that I'm helping people making a difference when I help people.... I just couldn't ask for anything better."
Twelve-year-old Ella Lindenberg loves school more than nearly anything else in the world. When she learned there were girls in Kenya who were missing school due to simple lack of access to sanitary pads and underwear, she wanted to get involved and make a difference.
Ella's solution? Find a way to raise funds to support our most immediate need prior to departing on the September 2016 trip to Kenya: underwear to go with sanitary pad kids. Ella discussed possible ways to fund raise with her family, ultimately landing on the idea of baking loaves of pumpkin bread to sell to friends and family while educating them about this barrier experienced by girls in Kenya. In two weeks, Ella raised over $1000 to support our work in Kenya, wowing our entire staff. She's also become an articulate and passionate speaker on this issue affecting girls around the world. Meet Ella and her passion in the video below!
The generosity of Ella and other supporters have been crucial to 4TGP in our formative years, and we truly could not do the work we do for girls without them. One young Kenyan girl, nine-year-old Vivian, who is also deeply passionate about school, articulated her thanks for the support of Ella and other 4TGP supporters by saying "We thank you for favoring us with your help. "
In 2015, we met with a handful of girls at Mikui Primary School to learn if pads from an earlier distribution were helping them stay in school. It was also an opportunity to learn more about some of the struggles they face, and importantly, to learn about their hopes and dreams. Twelve-year-old Dorcas, above, wants to be an optician when she grows up. Mercy, below, hopes to become a doctor; Millicent, a broadcast journalist. When we returned to visit the girls in 2016, we are happy to report that they are continuing to stay in school and moving closer to their dreams.
"I am Mercy Kaweri, 13 years old, from Makui Primary School. When I grow up, I hope to become a doctor."