On May 28th, to mark the Menstruation Hygiene Day, Kenya’s Ministry of Health with the support of partners and stakeholders launched the Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy. This came as a welcome development for women and girls around the country because finally, menstrual health would be addressed.
While some may say to expect immediate implementation of the policy document may be too ambitious, we cannot continue to ignore the urgency with which we need to deal with menstrual health and hygiene.
Several news reports have shown girls suffering because they cannot afford or do not have access to proper sanitary products. Girls are forced to engage in transactional sex to get money to acquire sanitary products including clean water, because as well all know some taps in Kenya are as dry as the Kalahari. Where one is to choose between using Kshs. 10 to buy a jerrican of water to cook or to shower, it is obvious which one supersedes the other. When a girl engages in transactional sex, she exposes herself to risks of contracting HIV, and other STIs as well as teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy further creates the risk of unsafe abortions or early marriages. For some, a pregnancy would mark the end of their pursuit of education.
Amongst the policy objective are to ensure women and girls have access to safe and hygienic menstrual products, services and facilities and to ensure a clean and healthy environment for all Kenyans through appropriate technology choices for menstrual waste management and pollution control. access to sanitary towels for young girls especially those who relied on receiving them at school has become a challenge. Overtime we have seen different organizations and individuals having collection drives to collect sanitary towels for distribution. Others have even designed reusable pads to ensure that girls and women are able to experience this natural occurrence with some dignity and hygiene.
2/3 of women in Kenya cannot afford sanitary towels
Use of reusable sanitary towels
One in ten girls miss school during menstruation
While we acknowledge the efforts, the government has made to ensure that girls have access to sanitary towels, there is room for far more to be done.