The conversation on menstrual health is still considered a taboo in the conservative Africa space. For a long time, the discourse around the same has been done in undertones, unfortunately to the detriment of many girls and women. As the world celebrates the Menstrual Hygiene Day, the situation in most parts of Africa and closer home in Kenya still tell a sad narrative of women and girls living in seclusion and missing school because of menstruation.
Access to resources and lack of priority to effectively manage menstrual health in safe hygienic ways have further conspired to create significant barriers to high-quality menstrual hygiene management.
The ripple effect of this has been greatly felt by women and girls in low-income areas.
Despite a lot of interventions and policies being made to try and mitigate the situation, the biggest challenge still remains normalising the narrative on menstruation. The Menstrual Hygiene Day, therefore, provides a platform to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management and initiate bold conversations about menstrual health so as to avert stigma and discrimination that are associated with menstruation.
Different discussions around menstrual health management (MHM) have made global headlines. There has been growing concern from governments, NGOs and other institutions to address and demystify menstrual related myths, taboos and shame that have affected many girls and women in low- and middle-income countries.
A study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation estimated that 65 percent of women and girls in Kenya are unable to afford sanitary pads. Gladly the government is combating this and is now working towards ensuring that this scourge is arrested.
There is now growing national attention to MHM with the National Sanitary Towels Programme for school girls and the development of national MHM guidelines to streamline operations so as to mitigate and change the narrative.
The writer is founder of Bethel Network.