Remember when you had your first period? I do. I was 12 years of age, naive and very oblivious of the red patch that was on the back of my light green school uniform. For a girl that kept a very low profile, almost to herself, I was very much in wonder about why suddenly everyone I came across was looking at me strange, with the kind of attention that was only reserved for child prodigies. After minutes of questioning, Angela, a classmate, came by my desk just as we settled down from break, and finally made me understand why everyone was causing such a fuss. The shame! The jeering and laughter from the boys as I stood up to leave! It was unbearable. I left class in tears and walked all the way home with a sweater tied around my waist to cover my ‘shame’.
For a long time periods have been treated as a dark time in a girl’s life that should be kept secret and very hidden because it depicts some kind of ‘uncleanliness’ that until is handled and done away with, should not be talked about out in the open. There are even fancy names to sugar-coat it like ‘Aunt Flow’ and ‘the monthly visitor.’
I feel for a girl that is in some remote place, who because of this periods-are-shameful mentality, is on her periods and is afraid to go to school, first because she does not have the sanitary towels to help her get through. She does not even know what those are. Never seen them, never heard of them. Second, she, just like I was, is afraid that is she goes to school while on her periods, it might just overflow and make her the laughing stock of the school.
All girls, regardless of location or situation, deserve to be in school. They have to be educated, to learn about their surrounding and the world at large. They need to learn how to survive in a world which in spite of the number of gender balance laws in place, is still widely dominated by men.
Young girls have the right to dream, to dream big, and to see those dreams turn into reality. She wants to be the next Koki Mutungi, the first female pilot in Kenya, she can. She dreams to be the first female president of Kenya, she can. Better yet, she wants to be the next FLOTUS, she deserves to dream!
Our girls in school need to be taught that self-esteem and self-worth are personal and do not need the approval or input of anyone else. That no one has the right to hold a value measuring scale to decide how much they are valued at. They deserve to rise up to be empowered and successful women that will run the world and bring positive impact to society. And lack of sanitary towels should not be the reason to cut short such beautiful visions and dreams. Which is why Always has started a Stand Up campaign to aims to keep girls in school, to inspire them to be great and to speak out about wrongs done to them. The campaign also seeks to provide some girls with sanitary towels so that they stay in school and become the next great leaders of the world.