Engaging teen moms in Kibera Slums under Mamito Project
Teenage pregnancy or adolescent pregnancies are a global problem occurring in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. Around the world, however, adolescent pregnancies are more likely to occur in marginalized communities, commonly driven by poverty and lack of education and employment opportunities. In some cases, as seen and confessed by those who have been affected, we have come to understand that some young girls as a result of period poverty and knowledge gap, rather opt for pregnancy to avoid menstruation for 9+ months.
We got an opportunity in April 2021, to partner with https://globalvisionachievers.com/ and engage with teen mothers from Kibera slums, Nairobi, Kenya under one of their programs dubbed Mamito Project. The Mamito project ( Mama, Mimi, Mtoto) translates to Mother, Myself and I. During our session, we could clearly see hope and determination amongst the teen mothers portraying that not all is lost.
We engaged with teen mothers about sustainable menstruation and use of alternative products during menstruation for the benefit of the environment and one’s body. Most of the teen mothers were surprised that studies have shown that sanitary pads can take up to 500- 800 years to decompose.
We addressed fears, stigma and taboos that lead teenagers to shy away from the use of sustainable menstrual products.
Education around sustainable menstrual products to teen mothers is crucial as this will influence making of informed choices in the present and future. To our surprise, most of the teen mothers were interested in the discussion which could be seen in their active participation during the 2 hour session.
Most of them were familiar with reusable washable pads and about 3 out of the 45 of them owned reusable products. Speaking to the three, they informed us that they ended up using sustainable option when they did not have access to disposable sanitary pads. The reusable washable pads actually acted like a substitute. One would ask, should this be the case?
Amongst the sustainable products we discussed about, the menstrual cup stood out. The series of questions that came up, clearly indicated that there was a will in getting to know more about the product. This showed that the cup discussion was a key concern for them. ”Why do they have a different feel?” ”Why are they of different sizes?” ”How do you use it?” more and more questions were asked.
By the end of the session, our take back home was that we believe the teen mothers would be able to use sustainable menstrual options if they are presented with the opportunity. That we all have put in an extra effort in transferring knowledge of existing menstrual products to girls in their menarche age, and menstruators both young and old to enable them make informed menstrual choices.
Many thanks to Rafiki wa Mtaa http://www.rafikiwamtaa.com/ who brought us on board as a partner and who have been playing a crucial role in helping teen mothers and street women to get to understand menstruation and menstrual hygiene management.
The teen mothers under the Mamito Project are also undertaking informal education which will impact knowledge and skills which will equip them as young women raising families.