To Celebrate International Women’s day, we want to celebrate an amazing woman called Sylvia Maina, who we’ve been privileged to come to know.
Here is her story:
“I am a second born in a family of three. Living in a separated family was not an easy thing. My late mother used to struggle to make bothends meet.
Thus, it was very hard for me to attain a normal development just like other children like me. Many are the times that I went to bed on empty stomach.
One could smell abject poverty in our family hence; I decided to join the street children on the street to at least get food to eat and a place to lay my head. On the streets we used to spend the whole day collecting used cartons and plastics so as to sell them for recycled purposes and make some coins out of that. At the times we could scavenge for leftovers in the dustbins which eventually was our main source of food. To make matter worse, I was not going to school because my mother couldn’t afford school fees to take me there.
Just when I thought of resigning my life to fate, I was rescued by a certain Children’s home and I had to go back to school and started in nursery level. In addition, I could now access shelter and all my basic needs. I went through the system until when I was through with my high school.
My first experience with menstruation was embrassing while I was in primary school in grade 7. This was really one of my most embarrassing moments in my life. In my class we used to sit both boys and girls; 1 desk for 3 pupils. So for me I was sitting in between 2 boys and it was towards the end of the afternoon class but I was feeling weak and wet. I realized that something was terribly in a mess. Luckily, the class was over and other pupils started moving out of class. I didn’t move an inch until later when all had left the class. I stood up so that I can move but I heard one of the boys shouting and calling my name Sylvia you have blood on your back. I was so shocked and sat on my desk wondering what is happening and what am I going to do while other pupils were laughing at me. I was so ashamed! I thought i had developed a wound in my vagina. But in a moment I gathered courage and covered myself with my sweater to protect my back.
I went to see the matron and told her that I have a wound that is why I am bleeding but she told me it’s not a wound but periods that every girl must experience throughout their lives. She gave me a tissue paper to use for my menstruation. It was really difficult for me to handle my periods because I had low self-esteem and confidence when around other pupils and students especially during my menses. During my primary level to high school I used tissue papers till grade 11, I was not comfortable using tissue paper but I had no alternative since I could not afford to have safe sanitary towels to use. Through it all I managed to beat all odds and became a successful woman in our society because I never gave up in my life journey that was full of challenges.
I am so proud and happy for my experience in life, I have learnt to appreciate life because there are so many girls and young women who are less previledged and needy in our Country. I have so many friends and I have interracted with many of the women, and I have seen them going through what I was experiencing while a young girl. I thought of talking to girls and young women through sharing my life journey and support them in different aspect of their lives because I know how it feels to lack basic needs and safe health facilities as a woman.
My motivation really come from my experience and I decided to always speak up whenever I have a chance to reach out to girls and young women about Menstruation because in our Country its a taboo to talk about it but so many girls and young women are suffering in silence because of fear. So many school going girls have been missing school because of menstruation which has led to school dropout early marriages and pregnancies which have cut short their dreams.
Mentorship is the key pillar in our program and distribution of sanitary towels to make sure that every girl stays in school.
Simama Na Dada-the Initiative that I lead is comprised of young people from different professions, and we volunteer ourselves in terms of service time and financial support to make sure that we have sanitary towels and do mentorship to different schools Churches, and Communities.
I believe it is my responsibility to Inspire, Mentor, Motivate and Empower all the girls and young women in our Country and beyond. Campaigning for their rights to education and safe health products is my philosophy for living.
I know I am accountable to God to make sure that every girl and young woman out there achieves their goals and future dreams.
God bless you.
Sylvia K. Maina
Founder & CEO – Simama Na Dada Initiative”
Simama Na Dada is currently in great need of financial support. The have very limited funds to purchase the sanitary pads that they need to distribute to girls and women around the country. If you would like to contribute, or want to know how to support otherwise, please contact Sylvia at: [email protected]