As the world gears towards the commemoration of menstrual hygiene on Sunday, stakeholders have cited lack of public awareness, culture, climate change and high cost of living as a major threat contributing towards an increase of period poverty among many women in Kenya.
According to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), period poverty is a situation where teenage girls and women can’t afford to buy period products or don’t have access to them and as a result they suffer in silence.
Menstrual hygiene that is marked on May 28, annually seeks to raise awareness on the need for empowering women and dispel the myths and taboos about menstrual health hygiene since it is a normal fact of life as this year’s theme denotes “Making menstrual a normal fact of life by 2030.”
Laikipia county governor’s wife Grace Wakahora Irungu speaking during a menstrual hygiene summit in Nanyuki, said that her office is committed in supporting local communities in making accessibility of menstrual health and products possible in the region and ensure young girls and women regain their menstrual dignity.
“We will partner with like-minded stakeholders to ensure our adolescent girls regain their menstrual dignity in bid to achieve menstrual health for our girls,” said the governor’s wife.
Laikipia East Assistant County Commissioner Kimberly Champagne said local women and women with disabilities were the most affected by lack of access to sanitary hygiene products.
She noted they suffer in silence because they believe it is a taboo for them to speak out publicly about periods hence denying them quality of life.
Ms Kimberly called for partnerships from stakeholders to support women and girls access pads since it was their basic reproductive health right.
Drawing Dreams Initiative, a community based organisation in Laikipia county Director Grace Wanene said that 65 percent of women and teenage girls in Kenya could not access or buy sanitary products and 72 percent of boys lacked awareness about reproductive health education which had led to an increase of period poverty.
“Our goal is to bring all prayers together aimed at getting solutions and ideas to address period poverty since the majority of women in Kenya can’t afford menstrual products,” she said.
Wanene blamed climate change as a major concern that is making period poverty skyrocket.
She noted that, lack of access to sanitary products among girls and especially in Arid and Semi-Arid areas counties in the country, had led to increase of teenage pregnancy and school dropout. She said it was the high time the community acknowledged periods among women as a normal way of life.
Drawing Dreams CBO supports teenage girls in Laikipia and neighbouring counties of Isiolo and Samburu access sanitary products to avoid school dropout and early marriages.
Laikipia county assembly speaker Lantano Nabaala said that it was important to formulate policies in the government that could help uphold women’s rights on reproductive health and ensure they are not stigmatised for lack of support in addressing their menstrual needs.
“This is a taboo to speak out publicly in my pastoralists communities. They are things shrouded in secrecy, however, it is a serious thing and this summit is a good foundation for the formulation of policy and then legislation because period is something with us and natural,” said Nabaala.
On her part, Laikipia County chief education officer Beatrice Wachira said that boys should also be involved in menstrual health education and should not be left out, and when girls are being offered sanitary kits, boys too can be given underwear since most of them come from humble backgrounds and cannot afford to buy undergarments.
The two-day event dubbed Nanyuki menstrual hygiene summit was sponsored by the Drawing Dreams Initiative and partners.