I was just about 7, attending my last class for the day, when the class teacher unceremoniously announced to the class that all school girls were needed outside for a meeting. We were bundled up, all junior girls to the seniors, for a plenary session where some guests were speaking at. Like all 7 year old’s, I quickly lost interest of what was starting to sound like a lecture. Until the speaker, held up a panty and what appeared like a wad of cloth. The older girls seemed to know what was going on but us young ones, well, this caught our attention and shut us up real quick.
The lady proceeded to do a demo of sorts, stuck the wad of cloth on the panty. And all I could think was, “well, that does not look comfortable” and “why wasn’t the teacher telling the lady guest doing the demonstration that is not how panties are worn? Was I the only “bright” girl that knew how panties worked? Shortly after, each girl was given a packet of something that I quickly found out, wasn’t edible. Pray tell, what is a 7 year old supposed to do with a colorful packet of something they cannot shove in their mouths? Little did I know, that 20 years later, I would stand in front of some 7-year-old girls, doing a similar demonstration!
My name is Tabitha Musya, a Change Champion at Young Jewels, but our school girls know me as Warhia. At first when we started visiting schools, the big picture was not so clear to us. All we wanted to do was encourage girls that they had the license to dream and that each of their dreams was in every sense of the word, valid. We knew that Menstrual stigma was real especially in most of our rural schools but we were not ready for the realities on the ground: school girls were missing up 3-5 days per month due to their menses. Some communities view menses as dirt, a mess that should not be allowed to leave the house. Due to poverty, families have to choose between paltry dinner or sanitary towels. Whenever there is some little money, hunger always win. By providing sanitary towels to girls, we are able to help them attend school and alleviate some burden on their parents. As a result, we have seen school girl’s retention numbers increase over the years to thousands of girls spread across the current 11 primary schools in our program.
When the boys in the schools we visited saw that the girls were staying in class more and performing better, they started turning up in our mentorship talks with our girls. They informed us, that they wanted to know what we are giving girls to make them outperform them. We found ourselves with a good problem: boys who needed mentorship too. We took the challenge. This is how we came up with the Zara Kit, an intentionally designed pack that contains a Zara Story Book, a full term supply of sanitary towels among other few odds and ends. The Zara Story Book is packed with tales about Zara, and equips both boys and girls with life skills they need to navigate their school life. To learn more about Zara Kit and be a fellow Change Champion to keep a girl in class,
please click here: https://youngjewels.org/zara-kit/
Author: Tabitha Musya