Period poverty is widespread through many parts of the world, where women miss school while menstruating, cannot afford sanitary products and are misinformed about their own biology. Kenya in particular experiences this problem, since 65 percent of Kenyan women cannot afford sanitary napkins. Period poverty affects women in Kenya in disproportional ways that prevent them from achieving economic and social equality with men.
5 Facts about Period Poverty in Kenya
- Some women have traded sex for sanitary products. Shockingly, two out of three feminine pad users in rural Kenya receive their products from sexual partners. Perhaps the saddest outcome of how period poverty affects women in Kenya is the fact that these women exchange sex in return for feminine products, sometimes at ages as young as 13. This can further complicate girls’ lives because of the culture of miseducation. One in four girls do not associate menstruation with pregnancy and therefore do not realize the risks of engaging in sexual relations.
- Ten percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, where Kenya is located, miss school when menstruating. Because of the culture of shame surrounding menstruation, girls often miss school while menstruating since they do not have the proper products to deal with their period. Very few girls receive education about their period before it begins and according to recent research many girls are misinformed. For example, there is a belief among these young girls that they can only get pregnant while menstruating. Only 50 percent of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Another reason girls miss school is that only 32 percent of rural schools have facilities where girls can change the products for the period during the day.
- Free sanitary products for girls in Kenya are appearing. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed an amendment to the education law that states: free, sufficient, and quality sanitary towels must be provided to every school-registered girl, as well as a safe place to use and dispose of the products. Though only $5 million in the budget has been allocated for this purpose, it offers hope to continued changes that will keep girls in school.
- Some local charities have designed locally sourced, reusable, and affordable pads. On the coast of Kenya, one charity, Tunaweza, worked hard to provide period products to women. Using local materials like kitenge and flannel, Tunaweza brought sanitary products to many girls in rural schools. Additionally, when the charity connected with girls, it also used that opportunity to teach them about puberty, hygiene, and gender-based violence.
- Raise the Roof Kenya, started by British Holly Bantleman in U.K., works on the ground to fight against the effects of period poverty in Kenya. Started in 2012, the organization has supported 150 youths to employment and provided over 45,000 women with the management of menstrual hygiene. Now, they are seeking to expand and build a center that can employ women to make sustainable pads for the community.
Kenya has seen a great change in the position of women since their new constitution in 2010 that provided great gender equality. Attitudes have begun changing and women’s rights marches have seen greater prominence. In the future, hopefully, this improvement will lessen the shame surrounding menstruation so that the country can truly combat the adverse effects of period poverty in Kenya.
– Grace Gay