Poverty is a major problem in all developing countries. In Kenya 50 % live in poverty. Nairobi´s approximately 2 million slum dwellers live on less than 1-2 USD per day. The poverty level creates a harsh environment with many problems like lack of sanitation, clean water, waste management and proper housing. The crime levels are high with many rape cases. Every day life is a struggle to find an income, food, a toilet or security. Jobs are few. The majority is forced to live day by day and have little opportunity to save or plan for the future.
It is key for children to go to school to be able to break the cycle of poverty. To find a job is hard without a proper education. But unfortunately the schools for low-income children are far from good. They are often ill equipped, dense and with few, low paid and often have uneducated teachers. Schools often lack clean toilets and hand washing facilities. This results in open defecation, loss of school hours, diseases that might lead to stunting and adolescent girls dropping out of school.
Approximately 50 % of parents or guardians living in poverty do not have strength or possibility to provide their children with the love, care, guidance and financial support they need. Without the support from a caring adult at home children are not protected, informed or supported while growing up. The children are often not provided with basic items they need. This may result in adolescents entering into prostitution and crime.
The chances to break out of poverty are small. Education is key but also having the confidence to believe in a better future for yourself. Here role models can play an important part. Most children growing up in a slum have few contacts with the outside world except on TV. Parents are unemployed, mothers stay at home and have little or no education, and examples of people who made it are few.
Growing up is difficult for girls. Becoming an adolescent is connected with insecurity, shame, and shyness. Gender issues within the cultural context also contribute. For example in Kenya 61 % of women with no education think that violence is justified if a women argues with her husband.
Few children have enough information to prepared them for becoming an adolescent or are taught what a healthy relationship is all about. This leaves girls vulnerable for abuse, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. In poor environments rape is common and young women are at risk.
Lack of money to buy pads
Many adolescent girls are not provided with pads during their period by their parents. Sometimes pads are available at school and are given one by one by the headmaster but girls are too shy to ask. Many miss up to 20 % of school due to their period. How to manage the menstruation can make a girl's life stressful. Every month she needs to find a solution. Some use whatever is at hand like mud, newspaper, feathers or cloth. If a girl gets a pad it is common she wears it too long until it bleeds through. These undignified practices can lead to serious infections. Many girls also lack underwear needed to wear a pad with.
prostitution for pads
According to some reports a common solution for girls without access to sanitary pads is to sell themselves for as little as 2 USD to get them. Some estimates from slums in Nairobi say that 30-50 % of girls between the age of 9 and 18 have sold themselves for sanitary pads without using a condom. These practices are life threatening as they can lead to HIV and AIDS, and illegal abortions. It can also be an entrance to serious prostitution where the girls then drop out of school. It can be the case that parents actually support and encourage these activities as a “boyfriend” can bring food to the table.
In Nairobi slums there are many teen-age mothers. Reproductive health training and contraceptives are severely lacking. Girls age 10-14 who become pregnant are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than women in their early 20s. If a girl becomes a mother she usually drops out of school.
Many girls growing up in poverty drop out of school due to lack of sanitation and not being able to handle their menstruation.
Studies show that girls miss up to 20 % of their school time each year because they are afraid of staining their clothes or are lacking a solution for handling their bleeding.
In some parts of the world girls sit the first three days of their period in the sand and bleed.
In some parts of the world women use cloth which is being rewashed. Often it is dried inside the house in hiding which might make it stay damp, which can lead to infections.
To wash away blood can be troublesome in dense areas and may prohibit clean water and soap to be used.
In some cases girls have no options available and are forced to sell themselves to be able to buy pads, which puts them at risk of HIV and aids and other sexual diseases, teenage pregnancy, illegal abortions and the risk of falling into prostitution.
Medical complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15-19 worldwide.
Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20 to 24.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 75 percent of HIV-infected youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are girls.
Worldwide, nearly 50 percent of all sexual assaults are against girls 15 years or younger.
One school study in Ethiopia reported over 50% of girls missing between one and four days of school per month due to menstruation.
97.5% of girls in South Asia did not know that menstrual blood comes from the uterus. (Torondel & Sumpter, 2013)
48% of girls in Iran believe that menstruation is a disease. (WSSCC, A change of tide, India, 2012)
29% of girls in Afghanistan do not attend school during menstruation. (HOUSE 2012)
Studies estimate that girls miss up to 20% of their school time each year during their period, because they are afraid of staining their clothes. This absence causes some girls to drop out of school. (UNICEF, 2013)
There is a general lack of menstrual hygiene education and guidance to help girls to use menstrual hygiene products. (UNESCO, 2013)
Lacking proper sanitary products, girls and women are forced to use degrading solutions, which frequently pose serious health implications – infections and diseases. (KIRK & SOMMER, 2006)
Disposable pads in developing countries poses a serious environmental problem, as there is rarely the infrastructure to handle this kind of waste. (MHM Practices, UNICEF 2013)
UNDP calls unsanitary menstrual hygiene protection an overlooked problem that hinders achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of universal education and gender equality. (UNPD 2008)