Around the world, girls continue with the struggle to stay in school when their menstrual hygiene needs are forgotten or ignored.
Monday, May 28th marked the 4th commemoration of the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). The day seeks to raise awareness of the fundamental role that hygiene plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential in areas such as education.
Globally, 52 percent of the female population is of reproductive age and for all those women and girls, menstruation is a natural monthly reality.
But even as the subject continues to be a taboo, the Kenya Works Makini initiative is determined to demystify this myth even as they joined the list of organizations that marked this day by distributing 5000 re-usable Makini sanitary pads in Homabay County.
According to the Kenya Works program director, Kennedy Okuyo, the Makini re-usable project is available in at least 5 counties and there are plans to spread this initiative for the betterment of girls in line with this year’s theme “No more limits”.
“We started this project through one school in Kajiado county and it has advanced to more than 20 schools, we are hoping in the near future this initiative will reduce the number of girls who miss school”,he said.
In Kadiege Mixed Secondary School, where there are at least 400 students, some of the girls still feel there are myths associated with menstruation.
For Naomi Obiero, a Form Three student, Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is a special day.
“Since we have Makini pads, we are more comfortable; other years we used to use mattresses and blankets. Even when in class you can’t concentrate and when you want to stand you overthink,’’ she says.
A similar tale from Esther Okoth,”Those towels are nice, soft, there’s no friction the wings are well put that they stick to the underpant. Plus those pads are environmental friendly’’
It is on the same breath that a teacher of the Form three students Madam Quinter Auma acknowledges that students performance has improved and girls are seeing ousting the boys in the general performance.
Presiding over the Menstrual hygiene event at Kadiege Mixed Secondary School, situated in Western Kenya region, Homabay women representative Gladys Wanga revealed that she would introduce a county policy initiative that will ensure girls receive four re-usable sanitary towels after every financial year.
“After every financial year, girls will get at least four pads to see them through their menstrual cycle. Let us not take one sanitary pad and use it for the whole family. We don’t want our girls to miss classes because of their monthly periods,” says Wanga.
Meanwhile Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 signed into law the basic education amendment act that sought to ensure sanitary towels were provided in all schools.
UNICEF in its latest statistics still paints a grim picture of the lack of sanitary towels among school going children. It’s estimated that 1 out of 4 girls miss school every month during their menses. These girls are said to also lack clean water services in this period.