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As much as the trend is slowly changing, most people still find shame in the red or even pink talk. Red and pink are not just colors, at least not for valentine’s or roses but are from the menstrual flow; be it at the end, mid or beginning of the most amazing process in the history of humanity, PERIODS. Who can even bleed for all that while and still has their life intact, right? (The pride when I write this).

I have experienced period shame and poverty on equal measures having been in mixed schools in primary and high school. I began menstruation when I was 14, that’s class 8 in primary school (I am not a CBC product) and the shame of not knowing what was happening, torn between covering the blood with a sweater or covering my growing breasts was traumatizing because in both cases, boys and girls would laugh at the girls who were naturally growing and I do not even want to think about the heavy and painful cramps and the school days I had to miss because I did not want to be a laughing and bullied stock. Trust me, I have used tissue and pieces of cloths because my mom could not afford it (and this is not an excluded case, it’s the national state of affair affecting many girls).

The recent advocacy effort around menstrual health management and specifically provision of the menstrua products by the nominated senator Hon. Gloria Orwoba has sparked a wildfire conversation around the status of menstruation and menstrual hygiene management in Kenya and interestingly, (not on a very bubbly note here), the responses from the policy makers in the house of senate around how “indecent” the honorable member conducted herself, she should have handled it in secrecy and “better” whatever that means, baffles me. What makes it heartbreaking is the fact that these sentiments are shared in a policy making chambers yaani laws are made here and with people who have experienced menstruation. This just shows the role socialization and cultural beliefs critically play on reinforcing period shame and poverty.

To some numbers kidogo;

  • 65% of females in Kenya are unable to afford sanitary pads. 
  • One million school-age girls miss an average of four school days per month because of their menstrual cycle and no access to feminine hygiene products. 
  • A survey done by Procter & Gamble and Heart Education found that 42% of Kenyan school girls have never used sanitary pads and instead use alternatives such as rags, blankets, pieces of mattress, tissue paper and cotton wool. 

Do these numbers ring a bell or we just see them on TV, hear them on radios or read them on social media or magazines? These are lived experiences that affect millions of girls who cannot enjoy a full transition in the education sector leave alone accessing digital, mainstream or print media. This is a group limited to enjoying life’s process through lack of basic amenities.

The menstrual hygiene management policy seeks to ensure that all women and girls in Kenya can manage menstruation hygienically, freely, with dignity without stigma or taboos, and with access to: the right information on MHM; menstrual products, services and facilities; and to safely dispose of menstrual waste BUT with such utterances from policy makers, where are we towards achieving this as a nation?

Behavior and attitude change begins with us before we trickle it down to the masses and such attitudes are a huge impediment to achieving that. There is need for intentional political will to ensure that these masses have access to basic commodities and with that, Kenya will be on the right path to ensuring full education transition and most importantly, the SDGs with key focus on SDGs 3,4 and 5 and for more about the Sustainable Development Goals


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