How to end period poverty

Menstrual hygiene has never been a highly thematized issue in broad parts of Africa but ever since a huge limitation of women’s quality of life. Education about it occurs in limited places, and the topic is still subject to social stigmatization. The current COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems - women have lost their informal jobs and cannot afford sanitary products anymore. Besides, schools have been closed for long periods, depriving young women of an opportunity to be adequately educated about this sensitive issue. To raise awareness, Making More Health (MMH) offered an online session on "Menstrual Hygiene Management" this week. We invited three Kenyan Ambassadors for this topic: Cavin Odera, Founder/Director at WA-WA Kenya; Elizabeth Nyambura, Director at SOLASA and Golda Ayodo, Chief Executive Officer at the Golden Girls Foundation. (To watch the session, please click on the names of the speaker)

Period poverty

Many women in rural Kenya do not have access to running water. There is a lack of sanitation facilities and a lack of opportunities for women to take care of their intimate hygiene. Products such as soap and sanitary pads are  difficult to get and, above all, expensive. Therefore, many women do not leave their homes during their menses (usualy about 5 days!), which means that young women, in particular, are unable to attend school regularly.  Overall, 65% of Kenyan women cannot afford sanitary pads. In some cases, they are provided with them by their male sexual partners, which keeps them from acting autonomously. 

This lack of access leads to period poverty. "It has been reported that girls are forced to engage in sex in exchange for sanitary products: Research by UNICEF found that 65% of females in the slums had traded sex for sanitary pads, due to the prevalence of period poverty and the shame, stigma and public health misinformation which surrounds menstruation. Denial of adequate social protection leaves girls vulnerable to long-term poverty," said Elizabeth Nyambura. Among many other projects, MMH partnered with SOLASA to provide a future for young women in Eldoret: Through a sponsored soccer program, the young women could access sanitary towels. 

Monthly menses, not a curse

Most women lack a platform for themselves, above all else. They are ashamed of their monthly menses and do not understand why their bodies are changing. Even in the families, there is less education - the topic is considered taboo, and the young women have to find out for themselves how to deal with it. Golda Ayodo has been campaigning for these women's rights for years and wants to raise awareness about period poverty. With MMH, underpants, menstrual cups and education (“100 girls” a campaign with Boehringer Ingelheim employees) have already been distributed to young girls and women in Kenya. "I'm happy to see that some participants are men. We should include more men in the period discussion because they also need to be educated about it," says Golda. A woman with a period is considered unclean and impure, which is why men and fathers, in particular, do not accept their daughters during this time of the month. 

How can you support it?

Cavin Odera, through his organization WA-WA, supports young women in Lake Victoria, Homabay County. These women, who previously had to prostitute themselves for food and hygiene products, are now given a chance to train themselves through manual workshops and generate an independent income out of it. As part of this program, the women produce washable menstrual pads which can be used sustainably. MMH wants to buy these pads and give them together with a pair of panties and a bar of soap to our established communities in Bungoma Countey and Eldoret. A sustainable and holistic solution - the women of WA-WA earn money with it, and the recipients of these packages get support with their menstruation hygiene management. 

MMH wants to find sustainable and innovative ways to support our communities in a long-term and holistic way. Due to the pandemic, the need for menstrual hygiene products has increased significantly. Therefore the MMH community need to help in a sensitive and targeted manner. If you would like to become part of the community or  want to support, please get in contact with us here.