Girls in Kenya are forced to have sex with older men because it is the only way they can access sanitary products due to period poverty and the stigma surrounding menstruation.
Research by Unicef has found that 65% of females in the Kibera slum, the largest urban slum in Africa, had traded sex for the sanitary products.
The charity also found that 54% of Kenyan girls said they had problems accessing feminine hygiene products and 22% of school girls are having to buy their own.
Andrew Trevett, Unicef Kenya chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, told The Independent that girls are engaging in sex with boda boda drivers, or motorcyle taxi drivers, for two reasons.
He said: ‘One obvious reason is poverty – girls and women don’t have the financial means to buy sanitary products.
‘But there is also the issue of supply. Transactional sex for sanitary items happens because the items are not available in girl’s villages.
‘In the countryside, girls are faced with no transport and can’t afford a bus fare. In some remote villages, there are no roads and there isn’t a bus service.’
Period poverty is a widespread problem in Kenya, and Unicef found 7% of women use old cloths, chicken feathers, mud and newspapers in the place of pads or tampons.
Some will even dig a hole in the ground and sit there for days while they endure their period.
They are also a taboo topic in society, with little to no education and reports finding that only 50% of girls felt they could openly discuss menstruation at home.
One girl said she had gotten her first period during her school’s sports day, and her friend organised two boda boda drivers to take them home.
On their way, they stopped and handed her friend a small bag, which had a change of pants and some sanitary pads.
Her friend told her not to tell her parents, and they thanked the drivers for bringing them the products.
She arranged for a driver to bring her products every month, but says her friend led her into a trap that she now regrets.
The boda boda driver and her friend convinced her to have sex with him, and she became pregnant soon after and gave birth to a baby boy.
In many communities, menstruation is seen as an entry to womanhood and a sign that they are ready for marriage, Unicef said.
One in ten girls in African countries have to miss school every month due to lack of access to products or there not being safe toilets at their place of education. But Kenya has been trying to make progress on the issue.
Through the government and Unicef, around 90,000 girls in 335 schools now have access to safe and clean facilities.
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