During a trip to Kenya in 2016, Jessie Ridgeway, a student at Los Alamitos High School High School, was shocked to learn why some teenage girls drop out of school, leaving them alone. choice than to become child wives.

They can not afford to buy feminine hygiene products.

During a visit to an orphanage a few hours north-west of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, Ridgeway became an intimate friend of girls her age. His family often travels after visiting Africa several times and in other parts of the world.

But it was a different trip for Ridgeway, who learned from an orphanage supervisor that girls with whom she had been friends could be victims of early marriage – simply because they could not afford towels or tampons – and had to stay home during their period. And, because of lack of education, some of these adolescent girls are inherently more vulnerable to marriage before they turn 18.

"They are forced to give up and get married at age 15," said Ridgway, 17. "It's just crazy – they'll stay at home, on a cardboard box – they have nothing, or they'll use dried corn leaves (as a buffer), but that can turn into an infection. "

In Kenya, 23% of women (ages 20-24) are married before they turn 18, according to the report. The United Nations Fund for Children.

In Kenya, as many girls as students attend school, but up to the age of 13. At this stage, the percentage of boys in school is higher than that of girls. Education Policy and Data Center I said. According to the report, younger generations in Kenya are gradually reducing the gender gap, but female students continue to be less educated than their male counterparts.

After hearing stories about what happens to these girls – but not the teens themselves, because they were too embarrassed to talk about them – it was etched in Ridgeway's mind. So when she got home, Ridgeway decided to do something about it.

She created a non-profit organization.

"I make reusable feminine sanitary napkins so these girls can go to school during their cycle," said Ridgeway. "This will allow them to have a better future."

African Sisterhood became a 501 (c) 3 certified non-profit organization only a few weeks ago, but in the past year Ridgeway has been collecting supplies to make reusable towels to bring back to Kenya.

Ridgeway and her friends make their own pads – made of five layers of fabric, mostly cotton – using sewing machines. They will each take buffers, which can last up to three years, and will create a set of care for adolescents in Kenya.

Each bag costs about $ 8 and contains the towel, underwear, soap and a washcloth. Ridgeway and her mother, Tricia, plan to take the bags to Kenya this summer.

Their goal is to create nearly 300 bags, which they will deliver themselves to the orphanage.

"It was all his idea," said Tricia. "I'm proud of her, I'm very proud that she has compassion for others."

Ridgeway said that they were still looking for supplies or cash donations, which can be made via the website. www.africansisterhood.org. These are the supplies sought by the association: 100% cotton, dark washcloths; corded backpacks; and underwear 100% cotton (sizes 10-16 years) or women (small and medium size).

The non-profit organization will also hold a sewing day from 10 am to 4 pm Saturday, January 26, at Long Beach Sea Base 5875 Appian Way, to create more pads. For more information, you can send an email africansisterhood@aol.com.

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