Protecting adolescent girls' hygiene through social mobilization during the COVID-19 pandemic

Speeches Shim

Friday, April 22, 2022
“Receiving the dignity kit save my life and for many other girls like me,” -- Mary Atieno.
Joanne Lewa/USAID

Mary, like other young girls in Kenya, were sent home due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents and businesses alike suffered economically and had to fend for their families with little or no income.

“I requested for pads,” says Mary. “My guardian asked me to choose whether I wanted to eat or have the sanitary products.”  Mary had no choice but to opt for food, with one solution in mind – befriend a boda-boda rider (bicycles and motorcycle taxis riders) who would provide money to buy the products. 

“This was very risky,” says Mary. “The riders would want sexual favors in exchange for the money. This would put me and many girls at risk of gender-based violence, early pregnancies and dropping out of school,” she said. Mary was excited when she was informed by a team from the Women Volunteers for Peace (WOVOP) that she was a recipient of a “dignity kit”. The Kit contained a monthly supply of sanitary pads, sanitary towels, face towels, body lotion, petroleum jelly and tissue.

WOVOP, a local development organization was formed by a pool of young professionals volunteering their time to make a difference in their community in Kisumu County. 

“We mapped 40 form-four young girls from Kisumu’s informal settlements to receive the dignity kits,” says Wendy Akoth, team leader for the WOVOP. “Financial support was from individual community members who understood our plight, we need to support many more young girls.”

Through USAID’s Yetu Initiative, WOVOP received training on local resource mobilization techniques amongst others. From the USAID supported boot camp training, WOVOP was able to design the Sissy Project campaign mobilizing individuals, community, county government and private sector support. The social mobilization efforts raised KShs 1.7M ($107,000) which enabled additional 2000 young girls like Mary receive the dignity kit. 

To date, WOVOP has raised more than KShs. 3.3M ($330,000). In-kind support also led to the training and production of thousands of facemasks for those who cannot afford. “Our volunteer organization was recognized as one of the top 25 local development organizations during the Annual African Union Summit”, says Wendy. “The training support from USAID’s Yetu Initiative played a major role for this achievement.”

Mary represents more than 2000 adolescent girls from Kisumu county’s informal settlements, whose future continues to be made possible by social mobilization efforts. 

Last updated: June 24, 2022

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