How poverty inspired her to be a sanitary pad provider

By James Wakahiu, Metro Reporter
Lack of access to sanitary pads in her childhood moved her to start an NGO to equip less privileged children with the pads
     Having been brought up in a poor family in a village in Nyandarua County, Ms Beatrice Muta Githinji had to endure a lot of challenges.

     But one that still goes around her mind is that her parents could not afford to buy her sanitary towels during her menstrual periods, saying she was forced to use old clothes which was embracing and often saw has out of school.
This motivated the 37-year-old woman and in 2004, she started Saidia Dada Network which donates sanitary towels and pants targeting school-going girls from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds.
The network also offer training to the girls on how to make the sanitary pads from locally available materials to enable them make their own pads. This, she said, entails what material to use in making the sanitary pads, the steps involved as well as safety and hygiene standards while making the sanitary pads.

Ms Muta said that it was shocking that even today; there are many girls and women who are still using old blankets and leaves during their menstrual period since they can not access or afford, affecting their academic and development performance.
"Without sanitary pads, life at school is difficult. The girls are subjected to very embarrassing and humiliating incidences, especially from the boys. Tying a pullover around their waist to hide the soiled patch behind their uniforms in case the tissue is not there ," Ms Muta told the Metro in an interview.
     “One cannot use a sanitary towel without a pant and in most cases, the girls wear bikers and so I decided to be giving both of them,” Ms Muta said.
They also train then on how to dispose used & effects on the environment, cultural beliefs on the use, saying most girls do not know when and how to dispose the used pads.
 She has set up a plant at Eastleigh in Nairobi where they manufactures home made sanitary pads for donations to institutions like schools in the rural areas and slums and also orphanages.
She said about 500,000 girls miss school every four days due to the lack of sanitary towels. It is estimated that vulnerable girls skip classes for 39 days in a year during their menstrual cycle, a situation that puts them at a disadvantaged position with their male counterparts.
Saidia Dada, also hold workshops in schools, rehabilitation centers,
 youth centers, children homes to train on menstrual hygiene training programmes, topics on sexuality and personal development and so far, she said over 1000,000 girls have benefitted.
During the training, they cover menstruation process and its effects on adolescence, stress management, hygiene, and discomfort management during menstruation period.
She said are girls who have fathers as their single parent since they shy away from such topics and also in schools they also face a dilemma of telling their teachers that they are not educated on the matter.
Recently, Ms Muta was crowed the sanitary pads ambassador and this has seen her travel to various countries in East and Southern Africa for the same course.
In Kenya, she said over three million young girls in across the county do not access sanitary towels due to poverty, exposing them to dangers of infections.
She said the government and the private sector should extend generosity to the girls, adding that education on the topic is also important, saying even those who access them do not know how to use or dispose them.
The ambassador said the government should not only target primary schools in the programs, saying they should also supply pads in private schools and secondary schools, slums and orphanage homes.“We tend to think that the problem is only in primary schools but even in high school. Most parents due to poverty buy only one packet for their daughters and can not last for a whole term and the girls end up using clothes, socks, blankets of mattress pieces which are a health hazard,” Ms Muta said.
Recently, the government set aside KSh2.6 billion to give free sanitary towels girls schools after persistent pressure from women parliamentarians, who took the issue of girls' absenteeism from school due to lack of sanitary pads to parliament.