The Pad Between: The Link to Girls Access to Education

Up to 80% of girls in Kenya who join primary school do not complete primary education. One of the reasons for this is the lack of access to sanitary pads. This is cited as the biggest contributing factor to girls dropping out of school and a major hindrance to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Because of this reason, a girl can be absent from school due to menses for 4 days in every 28 day cycle. This is equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term in primary school. Cumulatively, 6 weeks are lost in a school year which is a significant loss in terms of education. Consequently, a lot of girls drop out of school in either primary school or early secondary school due to the stigma that this period brings.

The repercussions of this are that the girl's feeling of dignity is compromised. This diminishes her bargaining power over her life's progression and become susceptible to early marriage, teen pregnancy, poverty, and at risk of HIV infection as opposed to happiness and success. In a larger perspective, the community suffers because there is decreasing investment in women. According to Warhurst (2009), investing in girls is investing in whole communities; they are potential economic actors who spur change for themselves and their families. As a result, there is 90% probability of girls investing back to their societies as opposed to 30% to 40% of men.

In addition, a lot of girls of school going age face a silent epidemic. These girls are locked out of opportunities simply because of access to sanitary pads. This is because menstrual blood is considered dirty and harmful in African tradition, hence isolation from activities that may "contaminate others".  This fosters stigma and shame, making the girls withdraw from activities in school and hindering their proper growth. Furthermore, the lack of access to sanitary pads due to cost causes them to remain at home to avoid staining their clothes.