Saturday, May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day again. Still necessary? Yes! In Kenya sanitary pads are a luxury for most women.
In Kenya, The cheapest package of sanitary pads costs approximately $0.75 CAD. For a country where the average daily wage of unskilled labourers is just about double that, purchasing sanitary pads is a luxury for most women. Also: women are often unable to control finances. Having to ask for money to purchase pads is often a source of shame. As a result, girls will resort to using alternative methods of menstrual management, such as rags, leaves, newspaper, bits of mattress stuffing, even mud. As you can imagine, these methods are not comfortable, nor are they effective, and can lead to very serious health concerns. They certainly don’t help girls feel clean or confident.
Madame Beatrice, Head Teacher at Genesis Joy School in Mathare slum, Nairobi: ‘It is very difficult for the girls in school, because buying sanitary pads in Mathare is very difficult. I see them miss school often so I try and help them, but it is hard. Many work jobs such as domestic help and laundry to make money, and so they come to school very tired. Sometimes they just stop coming to school because they are embarrassed when they stain their uniforms.’
Having to ask for money to purchase pads is often a source of shame
Girls in Kenya will miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month due to their period – adding up to 20 per cent of the school year. This puts female students at a distinct disadvantage as they enter secondary school and severely decreases their odds of continuing on to post-secondary school. If schools had the resources and commitment to teaching menstrual health education to their students, girl’s attendance would improve, academic performance would improve, and their overall self-confidence would improve. However, the cultural stigma prevents menstruation from being included in the curriculum.
Providing menstrual health education needs to be a priority, for girls and boys, and is the first step to breaking down the stigma. It’s important for girls to understand how their bodies work, and why they menstruate each month, so they can learn to properly manage their cycles.
Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness of the challenges women and girls worldwide face due to their menstruation and highlights solutions that address these challenges. Sympathize with this event that’s initiated by Wash United? Spread the news via social media by using the hashtag #MenstruationMatters. For more information, visit: Menstrualhygieneday.org/.