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Why lecturer from Kisumu got a letter from the Queen

Golda Ayodo, the founder of Golden Girls Foundation in Kano village Kisumu county was last week feted by Queen Elizabeth II for her effort to distribute menstrual cups to girls

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

What inspired you to start the Golden Girls Foundation?

The initiative was born in 2010 after my husband invited me to be a guest of honour during a prize-giving ceremony at Amilo Primary School where he was the chair of the board of management.

I noticed that only the boys were awarded prizes for academic excellence while the girls were merely spectators. I inquired from teachers and the response was that girls were lazy and didn’t work as hard as the boys. Their low population was also alarming where in a class of 30 only seven or fewer girls were present.

I took the initiative and had a private conservation with the girls after the ceremony and found the ground was not levelled. Girls had to do more house chores than boys. The biggest challenge was girls couldn’t afford sanitary pads, they had to stay home during their period or use worn out clothes and rags. I knew I had to do something for the girls. I got uniforms, shoes, and books, as well as sanitary pads from well-wishers.

When did the organisation register a breakthrough?

During the next annual prize-giving day after starting the initiative. Out of the five subjects in Class Eight, girls topped in four of them – history was made. With this tremendous achievement, parents requested we expand to other classes. We registered the foundation in 2011. What is the model of your operation? We mainly deal with volunteers who are mentors.

British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey presented the award to Ayodo.

We go around the schools and asked them to recommend women that are not necessarily educated, but can motivate the girls.

To motivate the mentors to stay in the programme and go to the schools, we have school projects.

Mentors do farming poultry, planting vegetable gardens and learn how to make soap and floor mats to sell.

Education is free in the country, has that facilitated girls in accessing education comfortably?

Even though primary education is free in Kenya, not every family can afford secondary education for all their children.

Girls are perceived to be more expensive to maintain in school than boys, as they demand money for sanitary products. Golden Girls Foundation bridges the gaps by offering menstrual cups and uniforms.

How do you access menstrual cups?

We realised providing girls with sanitary pads was not a sustainable solution. My husband, Bernard Obera made the first contact with Ruby Cup, a company that manufactures a feminine hygiene product that is inserted into the vagina during menstruation to prevent blood from leaking onto clothes.

Ruby Cup provided us with support for administrative purposes as well as a sustainable, long-term period solution for hundreds of girls through their buy-one give-one programme. In turn, the Golden Girls Foundation became a reliable, locally based partner for distributing the cups and educating girls. Owning a cup boosts girls’ self-esteem and helps them understand their own bodies better.

What is your take on the government sanitary pads programme?

It was a well-thought out initiative, but it is yet to register its intended purpose because it is not sustainable and the funding is little. Policy makers in the government opt to rethink the sanitary pads distribution and adopt sustainable projects such as ruby cups that can be used by a girl for over 10 years without replacement.

Has the foundation won any local recognition and what are your achievements?

Never. The 28th Commonwealth Point of Light on World Commonwealth Day from Queen Elizabeth II is the first and I do not know how we were picked. Over the eight years, we have distributed over 10,000 menstrual cups to girls mostly in Western Kenya.

We have established a mentoring scheme in which 100 female volunteers mentor over 500 girls and encourage them to attend school and gain skills and training. We expect to distribute 10,000 menstrual cups this year.

What was your feeling when you heard that you are a recipient of the Queen’s award and what does this means to you?

It is with great honour and privilege that I accept the Point of Light Award, offered to me by Her Majesty The Queen as the Head of the Commonwealth. Like a candle, this Point of Light award will always shine out for volunteers working to change the lives of girls and women, one at a time.

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