“My dreams have been shattered. I wish I had been going to school because this could not have happened.”
Last year, Naserian joined high school and planned to pursue nursing in future. In mid-march Kenyan schools were closed due to COVID-19 and she was forced to stay at home. With lots of extra time on her hands, Naserian decided to visit her boyfriend and they ended up having sex. Just a few weeks later, she found out that she was pregnant. As a result of all this, Naserian’s path has changed drastically; she says that her father will marry her off as a way of punishment for getting pregnant.
“I had sex to pay for sanitary pads”
Prisca has been at home due to COVID-19. During this period she had her period and she had no choice but to use old unhygienic rags to collect the blood, due to lack of access to sanitary pads. As you might guess, using old cloths didn’t work very well and she ended up getting blood on her dress. “I was ashamed when I had my period”, Prisca recalls. Everything changed when a stranger approached her. He promised that he would protect her against the bleeding. He made her an offer to have sex with him in exchange for sanitary pads. Prisca obliged because she had little choice. Unfortunately, now Prisca is now pregnant with this stranger’s child, all because she didn’t have access to sanitary products, which are such a basic necessity. She had no idea that she could become pregnant from having sex, and was completely unaware of birth control methods or protection. “I wish my daughter could have finished school,” says her mother. “She would have had a better chance in life than I got. Now that is impossible.”
“It’s alarming that close to 4000 school girls impregnated in Kenya during the COVID-19 lockdown”, Kenyan media decries.
The wellbeing of thousands of girls in Kenya is endangered as the stark numbers of teenage pregnancy, physical and sexual violence have increased dramatically during the COVID-19 epidemic. Restrictions on movement have made it hard for girls and young women to access health information and services. School closure due to the pandemic has cut girls from teachers who play a big role in guiding them. Girls are now left idle at home, exposing them to greater risks of exploitation and gender-based violence. School closure has stopped the provision of sanitary pads which many girls from disadvantaged families rely on significantly. This has raised the risks of girls engaging in transactional sex in order to access sanitary pads. Girls in the village are forced to have sex in exchange for sanitary products due to the prevalence of period poverty and the shame and stigma. It goes without saying that if girls are not in school, it is more likely they will be forced into child marriage or teenage pregnancy. Period poverty is a silent issue in a girl’s life. Unfortunately, many girls may not resume schools when schools will be re-opening due to teenage pregnancy.
At the most basic level, both girls and boys need to receive sex education to make healthy choices about their physical relationships. They need to be educated on self-esteem, setting sexual boundaries, and how to effectively use contraception.
In regard to this, Ntoyie Africa will be holding a campaign “No girl should trade sex for sanitary products” in September 2020. This will involve sex education and donation of sanitary pads in Kajiado County, Nairobi, Kenya. If you wish to help or donate get in touch with us. You can also donate directly here.
Let’s Stop Period Poverty!
Resource list to support teenage girls campaign “No girl should trade sex for sanitary products”:
- Sex education trainee
- Sanitary pads
If you or someone you know in Kenya needs support (particularly in cases of period poverty, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence, please visit https://shewillsurvive.com/get-help-africa/kenya/ and find a local support service near you.
About the Author
I’m Nailah, empowering girls and women is my true passion. Getting life-changing opportunities to people is my calling. Empowering girls and women provides me with enormous gratification. I am a founder of Ntoyie Africa, a Community Based Organization (NCBO) that champions for the sustainability of girl child learning through various programmes and interventions in education, healthcare and mentor-ship. Ntoyie Africa’s mandate is to establish and implement sustainable programmes to enhance successful enrollment and completion of girl child education in marginalized communities.