This week’s Maseno Minute covers the Pad Project, an awesome branch of Too Little Children. Head to their page to read about what the Pad Project is doing for girls all over the world.
Good morning, and welcome to this week’s Maseno Minute!
From all of us here at Too Little Children, we hope you had a great weekend. Whether you’re still recovering from a night out on the town with your best gals, or Binge-Day-Saturday featuring the newest season of “Narcos” on Netflix, we are glad that you and your coffee—take a drink before it gets too cold—are tuning in. And we hope you are wearing your favorite blue socks. You know, the ones that really bring out the curvature of your ankles.
This week’s Maseno Minute will be covering the Pad Project, one of the organizations under Too Little Children. We are not talking about hot pads or crash pads or the pads on dog paws—though that would be cute. We’re talking about women’s sanitary pads. But why should you, sitting there with your coffee and English muffin, want to read about women’s sanitary pads at his hour of the morning?
Well, I suppose, simply because it’s important.
In many countries, girls do not have access to sanitary pads, and even if they do, feminine hygiene is considered an expensive luxury. Families struggling to pay for food can’t prioritize the steep monthly cost of feminine hygiene. As a result, when girls start menstruating, they have no tools to live with their periods. This means that, for one week every month, they can’t go outside to play. They can’t make trips to the grocery store. But most importantly, they can’t go to school.
In Kenya, if you do not pass the exam given at the end of the eighth grade, you don’t have the option to continue to go to school. Many girls do not pass this exam because they miss a week of school every month, and oftentimes families pull the girls out of school before the eighth grade, as they cannot justify paying school fees for a daughter who is continually falling behind. The girls can’t get notes to catch up on the lessons they have missed, as paper is an extremely expensive commodity and most lessons are given orally. The girls, because of who they are biologically, are destined for failure, their future prospects shifting from hopes of being writers or doctors or politicians, to being married off for a dowry—even at age 11 or 12. Some girls are so desperate to stay in school, desperate to have a future with a shred of autonomy, that they sell the only thing they have in order to pay for pads—their bodies. While this can be a ‘solution’ for a short time, it often leads to pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and the deeper pain of shame and helplessness.
The Pad Project knows that this issue is deeply-rooted and multi-faceted. You, sipping your coffee, and me, typing at my laptop, can’t solve this single-handedly. But the Pad Project is putting its best foot—and most absorbent pad—forward.
The Pad Project makes reusable sanitary pads and sends them to girls who need them. The project started in Maseno, but soon realized that feminine hygiene is a problem in many countries, not just in the city of Maseno. Since its first distribution of 300 sets of pads in 2013, the Pad Project has distributed about 11,000 pads all over the world.
And that’s pretty cool.
In 2015, I had the opportunity to work with the Pad Project during a month I spent in Maseno working with Too Little Children. I went to Maseno with my dad, my sister Jess—founder of TLC—and two of my friends from school, Caroline and Anthony. We had each packed one bag of personal belongings to take to Kenya, and one duffle bursting with exactly 50 lbs. of pads as per the weight restrictions for Kenyan Airlines.
A week into our stay we boarded the ambulance, our luxury travel vehicle, with the duffels full of pads, and drove to a school at which we had arranged to distribute pads. I stuck my head out of the window with Caroline as we bounced down the road, avoiding the potholes in the bright red dirt.
We arrived at a school with a gate the color of the sky and pulled into the courtyard. I was surprised. The small space of sparse grass was filled with boys. Had I missed something during the annual Human Growth and Development unit in school? After all, the only thing I remember from that portion of my education is that girls cannot, in fact, get pregnant from playing football with boys, despite what (insert boys’ name I have omitted in case he reads this) may tell you.
We got out of the ambulance and soon learned that all of the girls had been ushered into the schools’ largest classroom. The room’s desks were filled, and the older girls stood against the wall at the back. They wore uniforms, light blue with yellow collars. The light coming in through the window made their short hair glow around their faces, giving each of them crowns the color of coffee.
Before we distributed the pads, we gave the girls a sex talk. The, “this is who you are, these are the parts you have, this is how it all works,” talk. There were giggles and whispers in Swahili at first, but, unlike my experiences in Human Growth and Development, it wasn’t awkward and weird like that infamous scene from “Mean Girls” where the gym teacher with the tall socks screams at the students, advocating for abstinence. This was different. It was awesome and quiet and respectful because the girls knew that they, and their bodies, were important. They weren’t something to be laughed at.
At the end we handed out the pads, one set to each girl, their yellow collars creasing as they took the pads back to their desks. They sang for us before we left, a beautiful song I couldn’t understand, but knew was happy from the melody. I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with all of the times I had put tampons into my shopping cart at Target with melancholy angst. All of the times I never had to miss school because of who I am.
But that’s why the Pad Project is important. It provides a sustainable solution for a group of people who don’t have other options. It empowers girls to pursue the futures they not only want, but also deserve.
The Pad Project can’t do a lot, though, if it doesn’t have pads to distribute. If you have a sewing machine, or just hands and a face—which you apparently do because you are drinking coffee—you can start a pad group in your community. This is very easy to do with the help of our handy-dandy instructional videos that are both scintillating, and amazing works of cinematographic art. The Pad Project is also excited to say we can now use both fleece and towels to make liners for the pads, so if you have any old fleece blankets from your 8th grade ex-boyfriend in the wicker basket in your living room, send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll take them off your hands. If you don’t have hands or a face, or maybe just want to help out in a different way, the Pad Project also needs PUL, a waterproof fabric that is a little expensive, but necessary. By donating $7 every month for 6 months, you can help us give girls across the world a brighter future. Just click the blue “Donate” button at the top of the page.
Before signing off, I would like to note that the Pad Project needs more advocates, especially from the male demographic. Yes, this is a women’s issue, and yes, we make sanitary pads—not a very manly product. But the Pad Project isn’t just about women: it’s about people.
Recently, I’ve frequently seen the catchy saying, “Powerful women empower women,” and of course I agree with this. It shouldn’t just be powerful women empowering women, though. It should be powerful people empowering other people, regardless of gender. The Pad Project needs us—all of us, guys and gals—to promote and uphold this mentality in order to make a difference.
Well, hopefully you finished your coffee before it got too cold. Before going back for that second cup though, remember that you have to drink one cup of water before, during, and after your cup of coffee to stay hydrated. And we, your loving team here at TLC, want nothing more than for you to pursue today as a fully hydrated individual.
Thanks for tuning in for this week’s Maseno Minute, and from all of us at TLC, have an awesome Monday.