•The GirlsRun Marathon is an initiative of Women Development Centre (Wodec) and Kenya Community Sports Foundation (Kesofo)
•Wodec founder Milkah Cherotich says sharing of information on menstrual hygiene will help overcome period poverty
•Multinational energy company RUBiS will be the title sponsors for the October event
Various international and local athletes will in October this year congregate in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet for a marathon to promote menstrual hygiene among school-going girls in poverty stricken areas.
The GirlsRun Marathon, an initiative of Women Development Centre (Wodec) and Kenya Community Sports Foundation (Kesofo), seeks to raise funds for girls from poor areas to access sanitary pads in addition to raising awareness on the prevalence of period poverty.
Wodec founder Milkah Cherotich described the marathon as a stepping stone to keeping girls in school and enabling them to fulfill their potential, including in sports.
"Reaching out to 1300 girls is not easy. We are planning to reach out to some girls in Kilifi in April and then in Narok before the main marathon in October. We are still fundraising and working with GirlsRun Organisation from Canada," Cherotich said.
Wodec specialises in production of washable pads to improve menstrual hygiene for girls at the grassroots.
Recounting her personal story, Cherotich said the initiative is a perfect break away from the yesteryears where menstrual hygiene was rarely discussed at a family level.
"When I was young, my mum never talked to me about menstruation. I learnt it from my primary school teacher. She would call us when talking with the older girls and the message usually was to look for some rag, use it and then wash and air it," Cherotich said.
She added: "There was a time I heard of girls in Baringo who were using leaves as sanitary pads. I was touched and remembered what I had been told by my primary school teacher. So I went online and learnt how to make washable pads."
Kesofo CEO Wesley Chirchir exuded confidence that the marathon will be the catalyst for long-term change as far as eradicating period shame is concerned.
"We are extremely grateful to RUBiS for trusting us to organize this sports event aimed at overcoming ‘period shame’ by providing vulnerable girls with sanitary towels and information about menstrual management. We are also very proud to see that sport is being used as an avenue to raise awareness on key issues affecting our communities,” Chirchir said.
The two were speaking at Iten Primary School in Iten on Saturday during a ceremony to distribute sanitary pads to girls in the area, in partnership with RUBiS Energy Kenya, who are also the title sponsors for the October event.
RUBiS Group Managing Director Jean-Christian Bergeron said the decision to support the initiative was a no-brainer for the corporation.
"The GirlsRun gives us the opportunity to promote health, education, and physical activity as a catalyst to raise awareness and support around the issue of girls health and wellbeing,” he said.