It is estimated that one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school because of her period. Cultural taboo surrounding menstruation and inadequate menstrual hygiene management facilities often force girls to put their education on pause during their periods.
That’s certainly true for many girls in Kenya, where just 32% of female students have access to a clean and private place to change their period products and only 12% of girls say they would be comfortable discussing period management with their mothers.
But that’s not the case for Grace Warigia, an 8th grade student in Kenya’s Nyandarua District.
Grace used to worry about getting her period. The young girl lives with her grandmother, who she says isn’t able to tell her much about menstruation and how to manage it.
But at school, mentors from nonprofit Asante Africa taught Grace and her classmates about puberty, periods, and how to use pads as part of the Always Keeping Girls in School Program. The young girl says she’s no longer afraid or ashamed of getting her period.
“I’m not afraid of getting my period because our mentors taught us we are starting to become a woman and you should be brave and you should not be shy or ashamed of yourself,” Grace says.
But Grace is just one of more than 150,000 girls across Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa that has been touched by the Always Keeping Girls in School Program. For more than 10 years, Always, a Procter & Gamble brand and the leader in global feminine care, has been supporting girls like Grace through the program and pad donations. To date, Always has donated over 10 million pads to girls in these countries, and school attendance rate has improved in 78% of schools in which the program operates.
By helping Grace and tens of thousands of other girls to overcome the stigma attached to menstruation and providing them with pads, Always is empowering girls to stay in school and focus on their education without fear or interruption. Through the Always Keeping Girls in School Program, the feminine care company is helping to equip school girls in sub-Saharan Africa with the knowledge they need to manage their periods while going to school and engaging in everyday activities.
For Grace, the program has had a ripple effect on her life. The confidence the teen gained through these lessons and Asante Africa’s Girls’ Advancement Program — which teaches girls about health, hygiene, financial literacy — led her to create her own small beading business. Grace now creates decorative household items and jewelry and works with her mother at a beading kiosk on the weekends.
Despite her young age, Grace is learning independence and has become a role model for other girls in her community.
Millions of girls around the world are not in school and initiatives like the Always Keeping Girls in School Program and the Global Girls Alliance — an initiative launched by the Obama Foundation today, International Day of the Girl Child — are working to ensure that every girl has equal access to quality education.