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MMUST WOMEN STEM AMBASSADORS IMPACTING VULNERABLE GIRLS DESPITE COVID-19

Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology’s African Women in Science and Engineering (AWSE), Western Kenya chapter, on Saturday, 4th July, 2020 took their outreach campaign dubbed ‘Watoto wetu jukumu letu, wakati huu wa janga la Korona’ to Makhiakalo Primary School in Kakamega County where they donated re-usable sanitary kits, soaps and masks to about thirty (30) vulnerable adolescent girls.

The campaign was flagged off by Acting DVC, Planning Research and Innovation, Prof. Charles Mutai at ABA building. Speaking during the event, the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor Academics and Student Affairs, Eng. Dr. Bernadette Sabuni encouraged the young vulnerable girls to respect their bodies. “You are responsible for your body. Don’t look for men to solve your problems,” she said. She went on to advise them to maintain personal hygiene and to be active at home especially in this time of Covid-19.

This particular project was initiated by Dr. Regina Nabwire, a lecturer at MMUST in the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry and domiciled by AWSE, as a sustainable way to help women, specifically teenagers and young mothers, struggling with menstrual hygiene. According to Dr. Regina, maintaining proper menstrual sanitation is an expensive affair. “During that time of the month, some girls skip school while others are forced to engage in sexual intercourse with men to buy sanitary products,” she said. She added that due to the stigma around menstruation, girls experience low self-esteem which in turn affects their social life and their overall performance in school.

MMUST STEM ambassadors, both juniors and seniors, took turns to counsel these girls on matters of making informed life choices. Dr. Rose Opiyo, a Developmental Psychologist, warned the young vulnerable girls against viewing adult content, as well as engaging in any sexual activities, saying that they should focus on education.  “There are things you have to avoid in order to be successful. With determination, nothing can stop you regardless of your background,” she stated.

Other women mentors and ambassadors present who interacted with the girls included Dr. Annette Okoth, Dr. Beatrice Barasa, Dr Gorretti Kariaga, Dr. Elizabeth Omukunda, Dr. Lydia Anyonje, Ms. Brenda Kabindio, Ms. Milka Aswa, Ms. Frida Njeru and Ms. Judy Dipondo. The student peer educators and the MMUST corporate communications and marketing team enhanced the beauty, excitement and publicity elicited by the AWSE outreach.

 Each sanitary kit contained: eight (8) fannels, two (2) liquid proof shields, two (2) panties, a face towel, a piece of bar soap, a storage bag for soiled products and a multi-purpose liquid soap. Dr. Regina says that if maintained well, some of these materials can last for up to three (3) years.

The climax of the day was a one on one sit down with the girls which enabled each ambassador to engage a number of the girls in a confidential session focusing on menstruation, career and mentorship. This is what organizations need to do to transform lives and MMUST did just that.


 By Wambugu Mary Wangari

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