The Golden Girls Foundation is one of Ruby Cup’s locally based partners in Kenya, where they distribute Ruby Cup menstrual cups and educate school girls. The foundation is run by Golda and Ben, who are supported by a whole network of female mentors.
Currently, that network includes over 30 women, out of which around 20 are actively volunteering their time to empower other women and girls. Who are those mentors, and what is it that motivates them?
Meet Peres Ochieng and Benta Odhiambo
Peres and Benta are young, bubbly women. When I enter the Golden Girls Learning Centre that serves as a gathering spot, they are chatting while Benta is using her sewing machine, powering it with a foot pedal. What exactly does their role as mentors entail?
“We go to schools and talk to girls about menstrual health and peer pressure. We demonstrate to them how to use Ruby Cup, and how to sterilize it. Then we give the cups to them.”
Their precise answers reveal a seasoned professionalism, the kind you only acquire over years of practice. Indeed, both of them have been working with the Golden Girls for several years. What is the question they get asked most by the students? “The girls ask if Ruby Cup can break their virginity. That is the first question we always get. We normally answer them that Ruby Cup cannot interfere with the virginity because it is only broken if you have sex.”
In addition to being Golden Girls, the role models are also business women. Peres sells onions and tomatoes, Benta is a tailor. A lot of their free time goes into their volunteer work. When I ask them how many schools they have visited, they consider for a short while. “Hmmm, I can’t remember the exact number, because there were many.”
The two are concerned with the well-being of other people’s children, but they also have their own: Peres is a mother of four, Benta of five. Apart from giving out Ruby Cups and mentoring the girls, they have also stopped child marriages before. According to them, it is usually a question of needs. “The parents don’t have money, so the girl goes to a man because he can provide. There were girls who were leaving school and going into early marriage. We talked to them and got them to go back to school.”
Meet Miriam Sire and Susanne Odawo
Miriam and Susanne are senior role models with the Golden Girls Foundation. Both of them have been with the program since 2013: “We have more experience than the younger mentors. We have done this for many years, so we mentor the mentors.”
According to the women, they also benefit from the volunteer work. “It gives us something to do. We work for small money, we plant maize in the school garden, we buy food and clothes.” Susanne’s husband passed away ten years ago, Miriam’s fifteen years ago. Their oldest children are in their 20’s, they have their own children or go to college.
Both women have been using Ruby Cup for years, and have also promoted it across generations: “We recommend it to our children and grandchildren. For the first day it was hard to use. I was walking funny. But the second time I was already using it right.”
Meet mentor Mary Rakiro
Mary Rakiro used to pass by the Golden Girls Learning Centre every morning and evening. One day in 2013, she saw some women hanging a banner and decided to go inside to ask about what they were doing. The women told her about the mentorship program and invited her to come. Since that day, Mary has been coming most afternoons to work with the girls.
The 31-year old mother of four is from Mathare slum in Nairobi. “I always had good grades, but my parents couldn’t afford my school fees.” Luckily, Mary found a mentor who took her on and paid for her education. In turn, she volunteered to mentor younger girls and boys.
Mary got married in 2004, in 2010 she moved to Kisumu with her family. The mother of four found a job doing home-based HIV testing and counseling. When she first joined the Golden Girls, they were giving out sanitary pads to help girls stay in school. “But it was not sustainable and some did not have panties to go with the pads.”
When Ruby Cup initially came to Kisumu people were skeptical, according to Mary: “At first the feedback to the cups was not so good. But in parts where we have distributed them, there will always be request for more.”
It is always great to see people volunteering for others. But hearing these women’s stories and seeing how they stand up for each other has been especially inspiring. Good luck to all the Golden Girls!
Ruth Asan (28) is a writer and political communication consultant from Germany. She has worked and studied in Berlin, Spain and Kenya. Most recently, she became co-founder of the Savara Women’s Advancement Program (SaWA), a training and mentorship program for young women from Nairobi.