The Olives Rehabilitation Centre (ORC) was established in 2001 by local resident Stevens Were in order to address the lack of access to primary education for children living in Bombolulu and the resulting low literacy levels. Precious Vision Children’s Centre, led by Jane Wangoi, and was set up in 2007 to provide free education and a safe haven for the many unattended children of Shauri Yako slum who also have no access to education in Mombasa.
Once a week for one hour all books and pens are put aside in the always buzzing schools for the girls in senior standards to gather together in one of the class rooms. The girls all find a place to sit on the tables, benches and floor and huddle together to create an atmosphere of trust and comfort. The counseling sessions always have a sense of coziness and the girls all know that anything discussed in this room, stays in the room and that this is the opportunity to bring up any questions or issues they cannot discuss elsewhere.
The girls in the room, aging from 9 - 17, don't always have the opportunity to discuss issues with their parents or family, like many of us could when we were their age. Some girls don't have a mother, others are unable to discuss matters as the mother herself is not very informed due to illiteracy and some just don't have that type of relationship with their carer or mother and don't feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters.
One thing that GVI has become aware of is that a lot of girls do not attend school during their periods. This means girls miss one week of school each month due to a lack of understanding and what they can do to make sure their periods do not keep them from getting a proper education.
When starting an explanation on the workings of their period, many questions came up and the topic had to be spread out over 3 sessions to be able to answer all questions that troubled the girls. Many girls don't attend school during their periods because they have no access to pads due to financial hardship or they think they cannot attend school while on their period. So we started the first session by explaining what is happening in our bodies during our periods. A few giggles arose when drawing a uterus with ovaries on the board but the girls soon all fell silent. Hormones too were a completely new concept and even caused the group of 60 girls at Olives, a group not easy to impress, to pay full attention. The most common question asked however: how and where to get pads and how to use them.
Pads are an expensive luxury good and so they are very hard for the girls to obtain. Therefore GVI has decided to implement a ‘pad-system’ where girls can obtain sanitary napkins upon request. A record is kept to make sure we can sustain the initiative. This has been successfully implemented in Precious Vision and we are working on a similar system in Olives Rehabilitation to be introduced soon.
GVI Volunteer Attie who has been very involved with this project for the last 12 weeks said “ Many pads have been given out in the past few weeks and for me this has been one of the highlights of my time here: to see with my own eyes how we can do so much with so little!”