Kenyan girls forced into sex in exchange for sanitary products
Girls in Kenya are forced to have in sex in exchange for sanitary products due to the prevalence of period poverty and the shame, stigma and public health misinformation which surrounds menstruation.
New exclusive research by Unicef found 65 per cent of females in the Kibera slum â" an area of the capital of Nairobi which is the largest urban slum in Africa â" had traded sex for sanitary pads.
The humanitarian charity found 10 pe r cent of young adolescent girls admitted to having transactional sex for pads in western Kenya.
The research found 54 per cent of Kenyan girls reported challenges with accessing menstrual hygiene management products and 22 per cent of girls of school attending age indicated they bought their own sanitary products.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Andrew Trevett, Unicef Kenya chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, said the charity had found it was not uncommon for girls to be sexually abused in exchange for sanitary items.
âWe have motorcycle taxis called boda bodas and the girls engage in sex with the drivers who in exchange source the sanitary pads,â he said. âThis is happening for two reasons. One obvious reason is poverty â" girls and women donât have the financial means to buy sanitary products.â
âBut there is also the issue of supply. Transactional sex for sanitary items happens because the items are not available in girlâs villages. In the countryside, girls are faced with no transport and canât afford a bus fare. In some remote villages, there are no roads and there isnât a bus service.â
He noted that the deeply-entrenched taboo which surrounds periods in Kenya results in a dearth of information available for girls and women.
âThe sensitivity around menstruation means the girls and boys are not receiving any information. You would expect it to be a mother to daughter conversation but it seems that is not done. Also, there is no information from school,â he said.
Judy, a secondary student in Kuria west sub-county in Kenya whose name has been changed, has experienced the trauma of exchanging sex for sanitary items first hand.
âMy period started in 2014 when I was in grade seven, I remember it very well. It was sports day at our neighbouring school,â she told The Independent. âI was a very good handball player and while preparing to play, my friend told me that there was some blood on my thigh while I was in the changing room. When I checked myself, my pants were full of blood. I feared telling our games teacher because he was a male teacher and I felt shy.â
âMy friend told me to tie a pullover around my waist and tell the teacher that I was sick and could not play. I did as she had told me but very worried,â she continued. âAs the day ended, my friend organised for transport of the two boda bodas [motorcycle taxi driver] where one carried me and the other one carried her. On our way home, we reached a place where the boda bodas stopped and they gave my friend a small bag.â
Judy, whose father is a farmer and mother is a housewife, did not initially know what the bag contained. Instead, she simply listened to her friend Maryâs instructions and followed her to a secret place. Once there, Mary removed sanitary pads and a new pair of knickers which she had asked the boda boda to buy and bring to them.