As we approach International Day of the Girl Child, It’s important to keep in mind that every day, women and girls who lack the income and access to afford sanitary products face significant barriers including insufficient education about menstrual health management (MHM)and inadequate access to quality, low-cost products.
These barriers are negatively affecting these women and girls: there are women who can’t afford menstrual health products and are forced to use homemade materials which are often ineffective and can lead to infections and other health issues; there are girls who don’t have access to sanitary products, and as a result, they feel they have no option but to stay home while menstruating, due to fear and shame, which deprives them of getting a quality education.
It gets worse, there are women and girls who are engaging in transactional sex in order to purchase sanitary products – putting them at risk through negative power dynamics in their intimate relationships and increased chances of unintended pregnancies and/or contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
The current government policy on MHM in Kenya is insufficient. In fact, the policy, which can be found in The Basic Education (Amendment) Act enacted by the Parliament of Kenya in 2017, simply reads that [the government will] “provide free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide a safe and environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels.”
This policy does not give much detail or information regarding how the government provides distribution and disposal of sanitary products or education on sexual reproductive health. What’s more, the policy is only directed towards girls enrolled in public schools, which fails to address the unique needs of other menstruating people such as low-income women and girls who are not enrolled in public schools, the disabled, refugee populations, and women and girls in juvenile detention facilities, jails, and prisons – just to name a few.
So, I write to you, the members of the National Assembly to demand that you take action towards improving your policy on menstrual health management in Kenya so we can ensure that we are supporting all menstruating women and girls, whether in our workplaces, in our communities, or in our homes.
Extend your policy and ensure that all women in Kenya are receiving adequate MHM services, and follow up that policy with practice.
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