Monthly Archives: September 2013


In 2004, the National Agency for the campaign Against Drug Abuse(NACADA) carried out a national survey of alcohol and drug use among young people aged 10 to 24 in Kenya. The results revealed that the most common substances used by young people were alcohol, tobacco, marijuana (bhang/cannabis sativa) miraa (khat, a plant used as a narcotic), and inhalants such as glue. Among all these marijuana or bhang is the only illegal drug. The survey found that substance abuse was much higher among out of school youth than among students. However, this large disparity may be partly due to students under reporting the extent of their substance abuse.

Every day I encounter first hand young people abusing drugs in school, on the streets and even some in the comfort of their homes, and it is a bit disturbing because I remember at a young age my friends and i would sit around and swear never to abuse drugs and any of our classmates who admitted to smoking were looked at as outcasts, now it is the complete opposite, if you don’t smoke or drink alcohol you are seen as “uncool” especially among students in secondary schools and universities and mostly by those who come from rich or middle class families. As has been seen elsewhere around the world young people in Kenya are dramatically influenced by their friends’ substance use, however my main focus for now is to discuss drug abuse in the slum areas.

According to a study by APHRC done in 2002 the most common drugs used by people who live in slum areasare cigarettes (65%), marijuana (52%), glue (14%) and petrol (11%), There are many reasons that can drive a young adult living in the slum areas to drink or engage in drug abuse, the most probable cause is unemployment, lack of jobs is a big problem in Kenya and especially among people living in slum areas, as we all know an idle mind is the devils workshop. Young people will use drugs just to pass time and kill boredom not knowing that excessive use leads to addiction and dependency on the drugs they use.Lack of a stable income drives young people to use drugs to escape reality, some will even engage in the business of selling drugs just to make a living.Peer pressure is also a major cause of drug abuse especially to those who complete school and start mingling with those who were already done with school and those who never went to school due to lack of jobs or school fees to further their education; they are encouraged to engage in drug use since there are no job. Due to poverty and poor living standards in slums most parents feel the need to use drugs and alcohol to reduce stress thus they do not provide parental guidance to their children who assume that it’s okay to take drugs since their parents do it too. When you live in a surrounding where everyone smokes and drinks you grow up doing the same things without even thinking about it.

In an environment crowded by unemployed people and poor living conditions a lot of evil arises, for example theft, rape and domestic violence thus victims will turn to drinking and drugging as a way to numb the pain, Rape and abuse can cause depression and anxiety to a young mind and those who suffer from this conditions like the effects that drugs and drinking have on their minds, they may find that these substances temporarily lift their spirits. These are a few causes of drug abuse, whatever the cause though; the path of drinking and doing drugs can take a very nasty turn if it gets out of control. Substance abuse is causally related to unintended injury, suicide, and interpersonal violence, unplanned sexual intercourse which increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy, STDs and HIV& AIDS.

This shows that drug abuse is a reality; the implication is that with this threat hanging over it, the future of the society is uncertain and therefore something must be done urgently to address the issue. Change can only be attained if all the parties concerned have seen its need and have made an informed decision to effect it.

Written by Lillian Mwai, she is a student majoring in Co-operative Business Administration at the Co-operative College University of Kenya. She is also involved in spreading drug abuse and HIV & AIDS awareness in Kibera slums.





According to the African population and health Centre (APHRC), Limited access to safe affordable, convenient and culturally appropriate methods for dealing with menstruation has far reached implications for rights and physical, social and mental well-being of many women and adolescent girls in Kenya, it undermines sexual and reproductive health and has been shown to restrict access to education

UNESCO estimates that one in 10 African adolescent girls in remote areas misses school during their menses and eventually drops out because of menstruation related issues. Studies have shown that many girls in Kenya miss 3-5 days of school every month during their monthly periods due to lack of sanitary towels, Any teacher would tell you that a girl without access to sanitary towels feels embarrassed, unhygienic and uncomfortable, she also loses self-esteem and with that the confidence to interact with her classmates or with teachers in the classroom. This deliberate absenteeism is mainly as a result of lack of financial resources to afford the cost of conventional sanitary towels available in the market. Most of these girls as well as women are forced to use unhygienic clothing materials to keep dry during their menses, a situation that on many occasions causes embarrassment to users as the materials are leaky, to avoid such situations; these girls avoid school while women curtailcertain social engagements that would expose their vulnerable state. This makes it hard for female students to compete with their male counterparts in education putting the female child a step behind throughout life.

A girl absent from school for four days in 28 days (month) loses 13 learning days equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term. In an academic year (nine months) a girl loses 39 learning days equivalent to six weeks of learning time. A girl in primary school between grades 6 and 8 (three years) loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks. Within the four years of high school a girl can lose 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning in high school.

The amount of money allocated for provision of free sanitary towels was slashed by 99 million shillings in the financial year 2013/2014, this is the 300 million shillings allocated previously to the ministry of education for the provision of sanitary towels to 568,925 needy girls between class 6 and 8, a fraction of the 2.5 million in need of the towels. This means that only 1/3 of the targeted girls will benefit. Recently on citizen TV there was a shocking story about young girls in Marigat,Baringo county who use chicken feathers, goat skin, soil and even leaves during their periods due to lack of options, as shocking as this can be, it is happening, many girls are forced to use unhygienic methods to keep dry during their monthly period. Some girls dig a hole and sit on it throughout the period meaning they miss school, others cut pieces of blankets and clothing, some cases are too shocking and sad to even imagine.

The issue of lacking sanitary towels in Kenya is not new, what is new is more people are informed and have become aware of the situation and more people can now take action. It is not enough to be shocked and sympathize and talk about it. We all need to do something about it, this is the first step in empowering women making sure the girl child is in a position to compete with her male counterparts in school, instill confidence and self-esteem, girls need sanitary towels, many cannot afford them and this is the reality. A packet of sanitary towels costs ksh 40 that is about $0.50 so we should do something. Are there people and organizations doing something about this? Yes. Is there enough being done. No. There are areas on the map that do not benefit at all, more and more girls are being born every day and a lot needs to be done.

As projects and campaigns are being carried out to provide sanitary ware, there is also need to provide information to girls about their bodies and menstruation itself. Studies have shown that there exists limited knowledge about the biological process of menstruation among girls and women living in remote areas and slums, many women and adolescent girls in Kenya have limited knowledge about their bodies, especially in relation to menstruation and sexual and reproductive health. In some parts of Kenya menstruation is treated with silence and as a taboo topic, this limits women’s and girls’ access to relevant and important information.

If something is not done and if the government does not keep its word it means, as one website campaigning for sanitary towels in schools put it, “Kenya is unlikely to achieve Education for all (EFA) goals and gender parity by 2015 or the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Written by Lucy. Research by UNESCO and APHRC