Photographer Laurie Nowling recently distributed DfG Kits in Kenya. This is her incredible story.
In February of 2019, I was introduced to Davis and Sharon, a Kenyan couple working to fight poverty and educate children in the Manyatta slums. Sharon shared that the girls were going to great lengths to purchase period products. Many of the girls would stay home from school and would not be able to play their beloved soccer if they were on their period.
I researched options and found Days for Girls! Sharon and I raised enough money for 100 kits. I purchased the kits from Enterprise owner Joyce Adisa. She and another enterprise owner, Jacob Oongo, took a matatu 45 minutes just to be there on the day we handed out the Kits and to provide education to both the boys and girls in the program.
Joyce is an enterprise owner in Kisumu, Kenya and they operate out of a resource center in Maragoli Village. Jacob is a nurse and is also a Days For Girls Enterprise owner and educator who taught the education to the boys. He and Joyce often work together to teach about sexual & reproductive health.
It's rare to see a man anywhere speaking so passionately about women's reproductive health AND holding a diagram of a uterus. I couldn't believe that I was witnessing that in Kenya! It was so awesome and made me so hopeful for the future. Education is POWER.
This is one of my favorite photos of the day. Jacob was so knowledgable and charismatic. I felt like a student that day as well listening to him. It was a really powerful thing for me to witness as a woman. I was so humbled to be able to be a part of it.
A funny note.....when talking about something particularly sensitive with both the boys and girls, Jacob would take on an alter ego named "Celeste" (after DfG CEO Celeste Mergens). "Celeste" was a girl near their age who talked openly and candidly about the problems she faced when she was unable to find feminine hygiene products and how difficult it was to be a girl in the slum on her period.
"Celeste" really got the kids laughing and to open up. It was a great ice-breaker and I will never forget Jacob talking in a high-pitched voice about his "period problems."
The second half of the day was dedicated to the class for the girls and then the distribution of the kits. We had 65 girls in attendance and we were able to give each and every one of them a kit.
Sharon said that many times, she would get a knock on the door and it would be one of the girls asking for money so she could buy pads. She said that hasn't happened since the kits were distributed.
Many of the girls that attended the class are also soccer players. I got to watch them play and they are so strong and confident on the soccer field. It's a big part of their lives in Manyatta. Being without feminine hygiene products not only keeps them from going to school but, it also keeps them off the field which can have a huge impact on their emotional and mental well being.
My favorite photo of the day!! At first, Joyce was holding the underwear and the shield in her hands. She was trying to show the girls how to properly snap the shield onto the underwear and she could tell that they weren't really getting it.
So, she just put them on and showed them exactly what to do! They got the point and the whole class was laughing which really lightened the mood. I love that this photo also caught Jacob in the background turning away for a bit. He was so kind and respectful.
Joyce cracked us all up. She was unapologetic in her truthful delivery of the facts. She did such a great job of really getting the point across in a funny and approachable way. The girls responded to her in a way that made me wish every girl had a "Joyce" in their lives — me included!
This was my very first DfG Distribution, and as a westerner going into a community like Manyatta, I would not want to do a distribution without the help and knowledge of a local educator or facilitator. As an outsider, I have no idea of some of the challenges that these incredible young women face every day but, Joyce & Jacob do and they were able to communicate so much more effectively that I could have.
They were necessary for the success of that day. I could not have done it without them! They were amazing.
Joyce made it clear how important it was to make sure that the kids were informed about the Days For Girls Program and products. She is very proud of her involvement in Days for Girls and what they are doing for the girls and young women in her community.
During the first part of the distribution, the girls were all lined up and it was so exciting to see all of the beautiful, brightly colored kits being handed out. Kenya is known for its vibrant and bold fabrics and it was so nice to see them being used for the kits.
The smiles in this photo say it way better than I can. Donate to Days for Girls here.