Why Are Slum Girls Missing 36 days of School Annually?

Lucy, a 12-year-old girl at one of the many informal schools in Nairobi’s Mathare slum, stays home when she has her monthly period because she is worried she won’t be able to contain the bleeding and will bring shame on herself. She is just one of thousands of girls from Nairobi’s sprawling slums — and Kenya’s impoverished rural areas — who miss at least 36 days of school a year because they don’t have access to affordable sanitary protection.

Girls like Lucy are already at a huge disadvantage when it comes to education. Families often give preference to boys if only one child can attend school. Girls often have to do chores and have less time to study. So missing more than a month of school throughout the year only compounds the list of challenges they already face. If a girl has been unable to keep up with the class work and fails her exams, it could spell the end of her education because her family most likely would not be able to afford to pay for her to repeat a class.

There is only one government school in Mathare…

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