Girls speak out on Menstrual Hygiene Day in Baringo North
28th May, 2019
Girls from several schools participated in a health education event convened to commemorate Menstrual Hygiene Day at Tanyileel in Baringo North.
The event marked under the global theme, “It’s time for Action”, was hosted by Tanyileel Girls Secondary School which has received support from USAID’s Afya Uzazi program to establish a Health Club.
The girls learnt and talked about menstrual hygiene, including why everyone should see it as a basic part of life for girls and women everywhere.
In creative skits and poems, the girls shared their views on the challenges they face managing their periods due to lack of awareness or understanding of menstruation. The girls also presented the solutions that would work for them, including access to adequate and accurate information from mothers and teachers.
School health clubs that Afya Uzazi supports provide a platform for providing girls with health education and life skills. Trained teachers facilitate sessions where girls to learn about healthy behaviors and acquire important life-skills. The clubs are safe spaces where girls freely share their experiences and are guided to solutions that work for them.
In their performances, members of health clubs demonstrated their confidence in talking-openly about a subject often considered taboo.
“When I first saw my periods the feeling was strange, then later I was extremely confident and even changed my walking style, so I could attract attention,” said a student who was participating in the skit.
The Menstrual Hygiene Day seeks to create awareness on menstrual hygiene management and to demystify myths shrouding menstruation.
Menstrual hygiene has been neglected as a public health issue due to the taboo and stigma attached to it.
Globally, many women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a dignified and safe manner due to lack of basic sanitation facilities. They do not have access to hygienic sanitary towels, safe toilets and clean water to manage periods.
“Most of the students lack sanitary towels, we only have two pads to sustain us for the whole term. Managing periods with a few packs of the towel is tough,” Says Sally Clarry, chairperson of the health club at Tanyileel Girls.
Many girls often caught in the dilemma of managing periods go into seclusion for day, missing out on school.
“We have open dialogues during our sessions since most of us resort to isolation and are often moody during this time,” she says.
The club conducts weekly sessions guided by their teachers. During the meetings, the students discuss the importance of health with regards to social and economic development.
“We are preparing these students towards having a success driven mindset by strengthening clubs and activities that build confidence” says Joyce Ng’eno, the Tanyileel Girls Principal.
Speaking at the event, the Baringo North Sub-County Public Health Officer urged the students to embrace sustainable, low-cost or reusable sanitary towels.
“No girl should be held back because of periods! Good menstrual hygiene will enable us to be productive in our education and businesses, we all can prosper, “she said.
Evans Cherogony, the Baringo North focal person for water, sanitation and hygiene activities stressed the importance of hand-washing as part of good menstrual hygiene.
“Good menstrual hygiene goes hand in hand with hand-washing to avoid oral contamination which bring about diarrhea cases,” he said.
The event was also attended by Francis Chelobei, the Baringo North Sub -Health Services Coordinator, among other Ministry of Health leaders.
Chelobei called on partners to address issues on menstrual hygiene, since most girls within the region cannot afford the costly sanitary pads.
The Ministry of Education has a Free Sanitary Towels Program created to improve educational outcomes for girls, although not all girls get the free towels.
According to one survey, approximately 65% of girls in Kenya cannot afford any brand of sanitary pads on a monthly basis. 42% of Kenyan girls have never used sanitary towels implying that most girls use homemade alternative as primary or secondary solutions.
The disposal of sanitary towels remains a concern. Nearly 40% of materials hauled from blocked sewer constitute of menstrual pads. In rural public schools, only 1% of girls are able to dispose of their menstrual waste in a safe, environmentally sustainable manner.
Currently, there are limited disposal solutions beyond trash bins and pit latrines.
Story by Denise Akun and George Obanyi (USAID’s Afya Uzazi Nakuru-Baringo Program)