News / Africa

In Slums of Nairobi, Sex for Sanitation

Girls receive a year's worth of sanitary napkins from Freedom for Girls, Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 9, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)
Girls receive a year's worth of sanitary napkins from Freedom for Girls, Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 9, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)
Jill Craig

Roughly half of all girls in slums of Kenya have sex with older men in exchange for sanitary napkins. In response to these estimates, healthcare advocates are distributing napkins to girls as part of a nationwide campaign.

Health educator Lydiah Njoroge, a field officer for the Freedom for Girls Program, an initiative of HEART (Health Education Africa Resource Team), distributes towels to girls in Mathare, a collection of Nairobi ghettos where poverty is so severe that girls are unable to purchase even the most affordable brands.

"The least [expensive] in the market is 40 shillings ... a packet that has eight pieces in it," says Njoroge. "So, because this girl cannot afford 40 shillings -- their mother, their parents are poor, they have other things to provide food and shelter - sanitary towels are not a priority. So the girl just goes [and] has sex with an older man, most of the time not the same man -- they would have one this month, another one next month, so they are very, very at risk of having HIV."

In other words, for 40 shillings - about 50 cents - girls and young women repeatedly put their lives at risk.

Lack of education

According to Njoroge and fellow teachers in Mathare, about 50 percent of girls between 10 and 19 have had sex with older men to pay for a range of basic items. But sanitary napkins are a uniquely critical resource: Not only are they vital to a young woman's health, but, without them, schoolgirls are forced to stay home during menstrual cycles, missing up to five days of class each month.

"It depends on the immediate need," says Janet Nzioka, deputy head teacher of Mathare's St. James School, explaining that girls use any remaining funds for food and clothing. "You can get food maybe at home, but, you know, sanitary towels, some of that you have to buy, so they prefer buying."

Lack of sex education at home, she adds, is another significant part of the problem.

"Let me say that people are becoming wicked," Nzioka says. "When these men approach these girls, they give in. Why? Because the parents sometimes are far from them, they have no time to talk about sex education with them. So when any man approaches them and they are ready to offer money in exchange for sex, they just say yes."

Twelve-year-old Ivone, a student from the Mathare Community Development Education Center, is all too familiar with these exchanges.

"When I’m just walking on the way, they call you," she says. "But my friends, sometimes they go. Sometimes they don’t go. But me, I said no to sex, but some are poor and they want that, they tell those men to give them money, then they do sex."

A 14-year-old friend, she says, has had sex with men her father’s age for money to buy napkins.

"They did sex, then the men were not having money, they were just lying," says Ivone. "Then, after doing sex, they left her there."

Njoroge says resources in the slums are so scarce that it's often difficult for girls to find any kind of substitute materials.

"These other materials are not also available," she says. "They have three, four, five siblings after them. So you tear a blanket today - tomorrow, in a year, you don’t have any blanket to cover yourself with."

But without sanitary napkins in particular, she says, long-term life goals are compromised, which is why the distribution campaign helps to keep girls like Ivone in school longer.

"Last year, [after] the national examinations, the Grade Eight exams, I was excited to hear that girls in most schools that I had been to during the distribution had topped [passed], and are being called to good secondary schools," says Njoroge. "That girl, you know, she told me she has a dream of being a nurse, a teacher, and in the next 10 years she will be that."

All because something as basic as a sanitary napkin, a year's supply of which, according to Freedom for Girls, costs roughly $5 per girl.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid