Antony Achayo & Sharon Awino: Period stigma is backward and must be ended in Kenya

Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba after she was kicked out of Parliament for wearing a stained suit  (to symbolise menstruation and period poverty) on February 14, 2023. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Over the years, majority of young adolescent girls and women have gone through menstrual stigma: Discrimination faced by people who menstruate.

It is high time we came out and stopped this archaic behaviour that is still going on in our society.

Period stigma is mainly caused by lack of information around the topic, cultural norms and societal socialisation patterns. The shame put upon the victims of menstrual stigma may lead to physical, mental and emotional health issues.

Period stigma can also result in misogynist stereotypes with menstruant girls and women being perceived as “irrational” or “too emotional” , which further affects their public life and economic opportunities.

It is high time we followed the footsteps of Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba and start advocating the stopping of menstrual stigma. On February 14, Senator Orwoba walked into the Senate chambers clad in a ‘blood-stained’ white suit pants with an intention of advocating the end of period stigma. We can as well talk about periods openly as that will help in the fight against period discrimination and shaming.

Other steps of breaking period stigma include pushing for period-friendly policies in workplaces and schools, advocating improved access to sanitation products and, lastly, avoiding the use of code names for periods, such as “Aunt Flo”.

In addition, the government should take it as its responsibility to empower the girl child through the provision of free sanitary pads, lower or even waive taxes on menstrual health products and come up with public awareness programmes to enlighten as many Kenyans as possible on gender issues.

Mr Achayo ([email protected]) and Ms Awino ([email protected]) are communication students at Rongo University.