Her life was just perfect the other day. You know when she could play freely with whomever she wanted. Why is she all of a sudden being warned to keep off boys? Like playing with boys would suddenly give her a plague.
Ever since the bloody scare, her mother, her aunties, even her cousin had turned into some mystical griots, talking to her in parables. “You are now a woman, be careful with boys”, was the advise she got from all of them. Why does growing into a woman have to be this hard?
God knows how she likes to take life with her big spoon. It might not be much, but to Justina, it’s everything – her freedom, her confidence, and most importantly, her performance at school.
Now she has to stay away from school once a month, because sanitary pads do not qualify in the priority list. “Those are luxuries bought by the rich”, her mother once said. “You are a smart girl, improvise.” She advised her.
She did improvise. She tried old rags last month. And she will live to regret this for the rest of her teenage life. Everyone in her class could tell where the foul smell was coming from. She could not stand her own stench. She kept on going to the latrine to check if she had messed her uniform, her sweater constantly tied on her waist.
Why does growing up have to be such a burden? Just the other day, she was climbing guava trees with Okello and Omollo, the cheeky twin brothers in her class. She was better than all the boys in her class at climbing trees.
Today is one of those days, just five months since she started her period. She is only 13 years old- so these are going to be many dirty months. Justina has decided not to go to school for the three days each month because her dignity is at stake. She cannot risk making a fool of herself and being the laughing stock of the whole school.
The other day she overheard some girls in her class saying they exchange sex in for sanitary towels money- that’s a lot of work for something that ends up in the rubbish. She does not even like boys that way yet. Men with money are older, almost the age of her father. The thought just freaks her out. Even if she had extra pocket money, wouldn’t the best choice be to buy that new dress that her mother has been promising her every year?
Let her cry today, tomorrow the sun might shine and change her fate. Tomorrow she will return to school and compete with every classmate who has been constantly in class. Tomorrow, she shall make good of her chance at education. But today, let her cry herself to sleep.
Puberty should never leave girls like Justina without hope of an education. Always has for over 10 years been known to run initiatives to keep girls like Justina in school. Through Always Keeping Girls in School Program, they distribute free sanitary towels to girls from underprivileged areas. They also educate these young girls about health issues, building their self-confidence and teaching them how to budget and save.
In collaboration with the Government and other partners, Procter & Gamble, the manufacturers of Always sanitary towels, P&G has been able to distribute over 8 million sanitary pads to more than 100,000 girls across Kenya.
From now through to December 2017, P&G is running an in-store campaign that aims to provide over 10,000 girls with a full year’s supply of sanitary towels. To take part in this noble initiative, you can visit all the major supermarkets and mini markets in the country. Let us keep girls like Justina in school.