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Panties and pads with a purpose

By | April 3rd 2011

By Kiundu Waweru

Esther Wambui was last month honoured for her selfless act of trying to keep girls in school by supplying them with panties and sanitary pads. She spoke to KIUNDU WAWERU, and becomes Eve Woman's first unsung heroine, launching this column that will celebrate Kenya's women who are changing the lives of people living in their community.She was watching TV one evening in her house in Nakuru when an advert on sanitary pads was aired. The advert featured school children dancing and singing, "I check, check".

That got her wondering: "Do all girls have access to sanitary pads? What of those who don’t? Do they lead a normal life? Would they have a reason to smile if they got sanitary pads?"

And with those thoughts, Esther Wambui, a tour operator based in Nakuru, decided to supply, free of charge, sanitary pads to poor and under-privileged girls.

"I researched on school-going girls in Nakuru and realised many girls miss going to school when they are menstruating because they have nothing to use and are uncomfortable about that," said Esther recently in Nairobi at a function to mark International Women’s Day.

Esther felt she had to do something for these girls, so she started a campaign dubbed Life is Good Kenya, and hit the streets to lobby for sanitary towels from the public.

"Surprisingly, men were more responsive than women, but people contributed generously," Esther says.

She asked people to buy pads and bring them to her. A hawk-eyed BBC reporter noticed men buying pads at a Nakuru Supermarket and, curious, looked for Esther and featured her small act of mercy. That was in February this year.

"I took my first collection of sanitary pads to Kibowen Primary School. I met the deputy headmaster and he agreed that lack of sanitary pads for the girls was, indeed, a big problem," Esther says.

As she did not have sufficient pads to cater for all the girls, Esther asked the deputy head to summon the youngest girls.

"I was shocked to discover that some of the girls had already started their periods, some as young as nine years old," says Esther.

While distributing the sanitary towels to the overjoyed girls, Esther learnt that they often used pieces of cloths for their periods, which they re-used. When there was water, they washed, dried the cloths then re-used.

Wear panties

Esther’s greatest shock was learning that most of them did not wear panties, as they could not afford them.

"I could not believe it. I had carried only one panty for demonstration. I gave it out very fast," she says.

That realisation forced Esther to rethink her campaign. "What is the use of giving out sanitary pads when the girls have no panties to hold them?" she asked.

Esther then added panties to her campaign, adding the slogan, ‘A Panty and a Pad with a Purpose.

Once again, the public did not disappoint; they were ready to give, which proves that people are willing to help the needy.

Esther’s selfless act is providing tens of girls with a steady supply of sanitary pads and panties. These girls will now be able to comfortably go to school during their periods and not miss class seven days a month, 84 days a year. As a result, their academic grades will improve and, ultimately, open doors for them in future.

Esther’s childhood was comfortable. Growing up in Nyeri, Esther says her parents were blessed with wealth.

"I led a life of comfort and never once lacked things like sanitary towels. I was, therefore, sad to discover that there are girls in Kenya who do not even wear panties because they cannot afford them and are in such dire need," she says.

Last month, Esther donated 500 sanitary towels to women inmates at Nakuru Prison.

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