United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) defines menstrual hygiene management as ‘Women and adolescent girls using a clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood and this material can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstrual period. This includes the provision of safe, private, hygienic water and sanitation facilities for changing menstrual material and access to practical information on menstrual health management for adolescent girls in particular.
The year 2016 studies from ministry of education revealed girls from poor families miss 20 % of school days in a year due to lack of sanitary towels the data indicated that a girl in primary school between class 6 and 8 can lose up to 18 weeks out of 108 weeks while those in high school can lose almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning as a result 2017 president Uhuru signed into law the basic education amendment act that states “The government will provide free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of sanitary towels”.
This was a great move however inadequate on its practicality, it does not live up to the definitions of Menstrual Hygiene Management which requires the provision of safe, clean and private facilities where girls can change their sanitary towels as often as necessary. A situation analysis by UNICEF 2017 report access to sanitation as a problem in many schools, every month a school going adolescent girl gets her menstrual period. Without proper toilets and sanitation facilities they are likely to soil themselves which leaves them feeling uncomfortable, they may face ridicule and labelling from fellow pupils or students making them feel embarrassed and as a result, they skip school about 5 – 6 days every month due to lack of a proper place to change and clean up. The time spent out of school pulls down their academic progress and eventually dropping out of school is inevitable.
There is a need for government to scale up and ensure schools have adolescent friendly latrines which are spacious and meet the recommended national standard ratio of 25:1 (girls) per latrine as well as provide adequate information on period management and reproductive health because these adolescents can’t manage their menses if they don’t understand what is happening in their body. This will help the girls confidently stay in school and realise their full potential.