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"The Dreaded Red Days"

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Tic-tic, Tic-tic!Tic-Tic!tic-tic the alarm goes off at exactly 5:45am at Hope’s  neighbor house that is an iron sheet divide away from their house. Hope wakes her brother Baraka so they prepare for school. Her mother fast asleep probably too tired from yesterday chore of fetching water from the Water Kiosk nearby. Today she will be will not be reporting to work as she has some personal errands in the capital city she had said. She works as cleaner in a restaurant in the City Centre, 15 minutes’ drive away.

“I will just have the strong tea”, Baraka whispers as he rejects the left over piece of ugali. Today they are not lucky, probably their mum never made it for the scramble for left over goodies at the restaurant. Hope in deep thought, probably making her calculation on how she will manage that time of the month as it is. “Pass me that tissue” Baraka passes it with the other hand as he gulps down his strong tea. Hope squeezes the tissue, into her old-fashioned jungle green khaki back pack. Baraka on the other hand picks his colourful bag pack, made of patched rags and they set off to school.

The “dreaded red days” as they call them, always makes Hope skeptical to attending classes as they are filled with a lot of uncertainty. What if it leaks? What if my friends do not make it to give me more tissue?.... etc. Since she started her periods last year, she uses tissue and other improvisations (Who knows what?) to try and get by. Thanks to her mother’s job, she manages to sneak out tissues once in a while that come in handy especially in times like this. Hope and her friends’ once had the privilege of using sanitary towels.  Thanks to a company that came by her school through Corporate Social Responsibility. Hope and her friends’ enjoyed the experience that was short lived compared to their ways of managing these “dreaded red days”.

These “dreaded red days” have however united them so much that they assist each other to at least minimize their missing out on school. They do not want to miss school for in the forthcoming year they will be seating for their National exams. They contribute tissues, share ideas of what they can readily use that is absorbent without leaks just like the TV Commercial  of a popular Sanitary towel, “No Leaks, No Stains”.

If only this part of growing up as a woman was optional, Hope and her friend living below the poverty line would opt it out without any regrets. If this is not enough, sanitation facilities in the school and back home are not enough. Within the School there are 4 units for girls and 4 for the boys. The Victorian Primary School serves many from the “Villages” within the settlement. When there are long queues some boys even trespass and use the girls’ facilities, inconveniencing the girls.

 The “dreaded red days” have made Hope and her friends to be creative in dealing with the situation such as strategically going to the facilities minutes before break time to beat the traffic at the facilities. But owe unto them when bad omen befalls them and permission is denied by a teacher.

However their creativity is not enough as they need solutions that will make the “Dreaded Red Days” manageable. During these days Hope, her friends and other girls with almost the same plight in different locations in Kenya and globally are filled with fear of the many things that could go wrong as they try to manage their periods with dignity. They may be present in school but they are mentally dealing with their “Dreaded Red Days” in a manner filled with fear and shame.

#MHDay2019 #MenstrualHygieneDay#MenstruationMatters


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