Author: Spiro Metaxas
This past December, EPN undertook a grassroots project with the Angels Center of Hope (ACoH), in Nairobi, Kenya. ACoH’s mission is to create a world “where the rights & dignity of every person are respected and all have access to basic needs”. As this is a shared vision of EPN, we were delighted to oblige in their request to help fund their current project–supplying young girls with reusable sanitary pads in order for them not to miss out on their education.
This project is especially important as it can significantly reduce the effects of poverty in the attainment of higher education. According to a recent UNESCO global report, Kenya’s literacy rate among adolescent boys and girls is rising. However, it is still relatively low and there are visible gender disparities negatively affecting women. This disparity is primarily caused by extreme poverty, further driving the infeasibility of continuing education among youth. In another report by UNESCO, it stated that:
The poor, and girls most of all, have far less chance of making it to school. In 2008, in Nairobi, almost all children from rich households had been to school, whether boy or girl. But 55% of poor girls living in the North-East had never been to school, with 43% of poor boys in the region in the same situation. This is, however, an improvement since 2003, when 71% of poor girls and 56% of poor boys in the North-East had never been to school.
For reasons such as these, it is paramount that Kenyan girls are provided adequate resources to enable their educational and personal development. Through project funding with ACoH, youth and female empowerment is made possible.
How hope leads to youth empowerment
ACoH has been an active non-profit organization in Nairobi, Kenya since 2012. From their first year of operation, ACoH has promoted several projects related to youth empowerment, peer education, health promotion, and environmental conservation. In 2016, ACOH partnered with the United Nations Staff 1% for Development Fund to stimulate youth employment through the funding of an automated brick-making machine. These projects have positively affected the lives of thousands in Nairobi.
Providing relief from stigma
Feminine hygiene products are not prevalent in Kenya. Wherever they are available, hygiene products are usually too expensive to continuously purchase due to the high poverty rates in Nairobi. Consequently, many young girls are often required to neglect their education during their menstrual cycles. As Flora Musilu, project manager at ACoH, has stated: “Menstruation is treated with silence and as a taboo topic with menstrual blood viewed as unclean and harmful, which limits the girls access to relevant and important information about their bodies[…] The inaccessibility of menstrual products results in embarrassment, anxiety, and shame when girls stain their clothes, which is stigmatizing.” To mitigate the unfortunate effects of their circumstance, ACoH has decided to supply young girls with reusable sanitary pads.
Furthermore, ACoH has three broad initiatives it aims to promote. First, an education initiative in Machakos County aims to raise awareness among adolescent girls about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and sexual reproductive health. Second, with the contribution of EPN, ACOH will help female employment through a capacity building program. Unemployed women will be hired to manufacture and supply the reusable pads. Capacity building entails relevant training, employment experience, and a paid wage. Third, ACoH has promised to donate a portion of sanitary pads to young girls living in extreme poverty.
Contributing to empowerment and raising Hope
EPN was approached to fund this project mid-2016. Since then, our organizations have kept open communication on the requirements of fulfilling the project’s goals – namely, to help empower young women in Nairobi by providing uninterrupted education through the supply of crucial hygiene products. To date, a first funding installment has been received by ACoH. EPN expects to continue funding this project until the end of 2017.