“The girl with her period is the one to hang her head”.
In Kenya menstruation is shameful and dirty. Women and girls on their periods are isolated from society. They must sit separately; they are forbidden from working the family’s livestock for fear that they will contaminate them. They are not even allowed to walk near the animals for fear that the animals might die because the women and girls are impure and unclean. Menstruating females consider themselves and are considered to be diseased.
The luxury of selecting packaged sanitary products for use during their period is not available in slum villages and the average cost of these products is approximately half of the average daily wage. Such things are entirely unaffordable and scarcely accessible. The women and girls in the most impoverished villages resort to natural absorption methods using sticks, leaves, feathers and even animal dung which often leads to serious infection and disease.
During this time of the month girls are not able to attend school as menstruation is such a societal taboo and the girls have no effective means of managing their menstrual flow. In fact, menstruation is the number one reason for school absenteeism with girls in secondary school missing up to six weeks of school a year. They fall behind the boys, struggle to achieve high grades and graduate with few or no prospects.
Women and girls deserve better than this. They deserve the right to feel empowered by and not ashamed of their bodies. They deserve the right to belong to society whatever the time of the month and they deserve education, understanding, dignity and access to a safe means of sanitation.
Menstrual Hygiene Day aims to break taboos and raise awareness of the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for women and adolescent girls worldwide. It aims to provide an education on what to expect and how to manage.
Imagine if this was you, your daughter or your granddaughter who was forced into both social and emotional isolation simply because your body was behaving naturally. Speak 31 hope to provide positive reinforcement and the provision of reuseable sanitary pads to villages in Kenya who are lacking in resources, education and information because we believe that no-one should suffer and live without dignity when change is possible.
Follow our progress as Speak 31 work to make changes for women and girls in Kenya and join the menstrual hygiene day discussion online #menstruationmatters www.menstrualhygieneday.org
Photo by menstrualhygieneday.org International Secretariat (WASH United)