What you need to know:
- There is a huge stigma and lack of understanding around menstruation.
Last year, the government of Scotland enacted a law on providing the desperately needed sanitary pads to all the female citizens. This is a good move that should be replicated in Kenya. In Kenya, period poverty is a huge problem.
Approximately 50 to 65 per cent of all girls and women lack access to proper sanitary products. The situation is so dire that, in a 2015 study of 3,000 Kenyan women, Dr Penelope Phillips-Howard found that one in 10 girls aged 15 were engaging in transactional sex in order to buy sanitary towels.
There is a huge stigma and lack of understanding around menstruation. Although poverty can be a factor, even in communities where poverty is not an issue, parents may simply not realise the importance of providing sanitary products for their children. Menstrual hygiene awareness is lacking.
And although there are organisations working to combat this situation, many children (and even their parents) are not entirely sure about how to properly deal with menstruation, how it affects personal hygiene, how to use sanitary products or even how to properly and safely dispose of used sanitary products.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), more than 1.2 million girls in Kenya miss school during their periods and eventually drop out of school because of menstruation-related issues, which can range from inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection to social stigma related to the menstruation and the culture of silence that surrounds it.
The cost of sanitary products, like undergarments and towels, is also beyond the reach of most young women and girls. Most girls end up not going to school since they cannot afford them.
The government should support schools in building good sanitary facilities. There is a particular need for toilets, running water, proper sanitary towel disposal and changing rooms for girls.
Teachers also need to be trained on the guidelines about menstrual health for girls, particularly in primary schools. The National Assembly should enact a law to ensure that all girls, especially those under 25, from primary school to university), get government-issued pads.
Although male MPs always oppose Bills favouring the female gender, this is matter of public interest and they should all act to save the girl-child from shame. Sanitary products are more important than condoms that are provided free of charge by the government.
Sex is not compulsory for girls; menstruation is. We can’t sit and watch as our girls feel inferior due to a natural biological occurrence that should be appreciated instead. We’re in the 21st century and, if indeed President Kenyatta is digital as he claimed in 2013, this should not be the case. This is a legacy that the President should leave.
Hinda Edwin, Kisumu