CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF ADOLESCENCE (CSA)

Pads are not enough to safeguard girls dignity

Article by Esther Mwende 

Menstruation is a natural process in girls’ and women’s lives and requires special care from a physical and psychological point of view. Negligence in menstrual hygiene can result in different sorts of infections including bacteria. Unfortunately, awareness concerning Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is not highlighted due to socio-cultural trends. In the present age, menstrual hygiene needs more attention because of the rapidly increasing active participation of girls and women in different walks of life. 

Kenya’s government committed to offering free sanitary towels to all girls enrolled in the public basic learning institutions through a presidential directive. This has played a role in reducing the number of girls who miss attending class due to the inaccessibility of MHM products. However, the perception of menstruation as unclean and embarrassing and beliefs that it must remain hidden in communication still exists in our communities including the school setups, creating stigmatization around the natural monthly bleeding. 

There is a lack of adequate knowledge of MHM. Studies reveal that girls belonging to the low-income class and less educated families, don’t know how to dispose of sanitary material properly especially in times of immediate need. Availing sanitary towels to young girls in school without proper MHM information is like covering a dustbin with a lid hoping for the stench to go away. The 28th May 2021 theme of MHM Day calls for investments in menstrual health and hygiene, not just by providing pads but also information on the monthly cycle and other reproductive health issues. 

The government must fast-track the implementation of school health policy which recognizes the provision of MHM information through age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality as a critical aspect in protecting adolescent and young women’s health, enabling them to realize their full potential in life. 

School management should be encouraged to include parents or guardians in these interventions to keep girls safe at home and school, the norm of teachers sidelining boys in MHM talks should also be avoided. 

“This time it was different. The topic was sex and sexual health and everything felt weird. What amused me was that my friends were comfortable talking about it and they knew a lot. I felt green for the first time in my life but I felt like I was in the right place as The big sister made me feel so safe and was very accommodating to every one of us. I had many questions that I feared asking my peers was hard as I was sure they would judge me. My parents were not an option as they were very religious and discussing sex was the last thing I would do. 

Stacy learned a lot and was able to clarify all the myths she had, especially from school. She really engaged and was happy to be part of the session as the topic was not freely discussed in school and most especially at home. “As a small sister, I promise to join more of your sessions and share with peers the right information on SRH and hope one day I become a lovely big sister like you.” 

The big sisters also went further and established a social fund to protect members from financial difficulties which come with unseen life adversities such as illness. Members contribute 30 shillings weekly; the money is used in supporting affiliates upon need with the guidance of the constitution. 

The big sisters also went further and established a social fund to protect members from financial difficulties which come with unseen life adversities such as illness. Members contribute 30 shillings weekly; the money is used in supporting affiliates upon need with the guidance of the constitution. 

Indeed, our community-based intervention can go a long way not just in the provision of comprehensive ASRH information but also linkage to accessing non-judgmental reproductive health services

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