Joined: 01 May 2011
|Posted: Thu Apr 20, 2023 6:01 am Post subject: Issues Surrounding Menstruation in Kenya
|Issues Surrounding Menstruation in Kenya
By Joan Githiomi (Kenya)
There are many matters surrounding the topic of menstruation in Kenya especially for poor young girls and women. It would surprise many that there would be such weighty matters to discuss in regards to menstruation. The beginning of menstruation and subsequent menstrual periods spells doom for some women and young girls in Kenya especially the poor. What should be celebrated as a transition into womanhood becomes a nightmare for many girls and is even associated with negative life altering situations. These issues revolve around affordability of sanitary towels, the cultural impact of menstruation on young girls and women and the stigma surrounding menstruation and menstruation hygiene. These issues cannot be associated to people of a certain locality but affect the poor in general all over the country.
When we mention menstruation in some countries it is attached to positives concerning the menstruations cycle, handling of painful menses, proper use of sanitary towels and preparation of young girls on menstruation cycle and reproductive health. However, their exists so much stigma and taboo about menstruation in most Kenyan cultures. In some cultures, menses are to be hidden and a lot of shame is associated with being on your menses. Women are considered unclean and dirty. This alone creates a lot of trauma surrounding menses. Menstruation is so silently discussed or is an undiscussed topic. So bad is this matter that young girls cannot share with their parents the onset of menstruation. This leads to young girls receiving misinformation from their peers or being taken advantage of by adults with ulterior motives.
A lot of education on menstruation needs to be conducted on young girls, parents and guardians so that they are able to appropriately explain to young girls what is happening to their bodies, what to expect and how to handle menstruation. The silence and shyness of parents on menstruation discussions is a danger because these young girls lack information on the relation between the onset of their menses the dangers of getting pregnant. This contributes to unwanted teen pregnancies’ which are associated and directly linked to dropping out of school and early marriages.
One of the most worrying aspects of menstruation is that it closely relates to the risk of girls early marriages. A girl in Kenya is most at risk at the point of starting their menstruation it signifies a turn into adulthood. Among the adults in some cultures, it signifies a young underage girls’ readiness to get married and have children. It is at this point where life altering decisions are made for the girl. These girls are mostly married off to older men. Cutting short their education and exposing them to a life of hardship and poverty.
Most affected are young girls and women in informal settlements and in the arid and semi-arid areas. The effects are that young girls are not able to receive the support they need in terms of material for menstrual use and also sex education which is crucial at this stage. A lot of effort needs to be done to counter this as young girls need to be taught use of proper material.
Finances greatly affect the affordability of sanitary towels and tampons. These basics are unaffordable to poor families who have to survive on meagre pay that only affords them basic shelter and food. To set aside money for sanitary towels becomes such a hard task and almost a non-priority. Young girls are forced to use rags, old clothes, leaves, cow hides and other unsanitary items to absorb their menstrual flow which has adverse effects on their hygiene. Young girls have been found to suffer and be prone to infections due to poor material used during menstruation and lack of general hygiene associated with menstruation.
Not to mention that some parts of Kenya in informal settlements lack water to even drink let alone take shower which is essential when one is on their menses. Water has to be bought at various water points because informal settlements have no piped water. Arid and semi-arid areas have little to no water and are constantly affected by drought. These are people struggling to find a meal leave alone water. So serious are the issues of menstruation that girls have had to drop out of school because they are not able to manage their menstrual hygiene. The fear of smelling or being laughed at by their peers makes them opt to seat at home where they will not face the shame and ridicule of staining their clothes or being uncomfortable during class time due to poor absorbent clothes and rags used.This absenteeism in girls in class is a big setback to a country that is struggling with gender equality and putting girls at par with their male counterparts in terms of education.
So serious are the issues of menstruation that girls have had to drop out of school because they are not able to manage their menstrual hygiene or receive sanitary towels opting to seat at home where they will not face the shame of staining their clothes or being uncomfortable during class time due to poor absorbent clothes and rags used.
Although some effort has been put by government to support giving of sanitary towels especially in public schools the initiative has not been taken with a lot of seriousness. These programs are not effectively implemented and hardly do the sanitary towels reach their intended targets. The supply is marred by politics, corruption, infrequency and unpredictability.
One of the proposed solutions to sanitary towels scarcity would be the installation of sanitary towels dispensing machines, the building of bathrooms in public schools and the supply of water tanks to schools for water storage by the government and well-wishers.
Another solution would be giving direct funds or monthly stipends to parents with teen girls so that they are able purchase sanitary towels for them.