BY MARIAH AKINYI
About 14 years ago, I experienced my first period flow. It was a scary and exciting experience. Not knowing what to do, I ran to inform my aunt who gave me my first sanitary towel and patiently explained what I needed to do.
In my first period talk, my aunt addressed issues to do with sanitation and how to keep myself clean during those important days of my month. I am grateful to have had such a good support system at a season that is often very confusing for many girls.
Since then I have talked with different men just to get their input on menstruation. One of them confidently said he can never purchase a pack of pads because it is embarrassing. This shows how much uninformed many men are about an issue that affects half the world population.
On the other hand, we have men who are champions of menstruation like “the period man”, a Mombasa-based young man who creates awareness by having conversations around menstruation with men, women and even girls of equal measure.
Unfortunately, many girls still lack quality sanitary towels during their important days; and this may lead them to miss classes thus affecting their performances in school.
Currently, when the country is battling the COVID19 pandemic, access to these essential commodities is further limited.
In 2017, president Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Basic Education Amendment Act, which places the responsibility of providing free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels on the government in order to reduce the number of girls missing school during their menstrual cycle.
But with schools now out of session, how many can comfortably say they receive a pack or two every month? The government needs to use the same energy channeled in fighting this pandemic to make sure our girls are not vulnerable to sexual violence or exploitation due to lack of menstrual hygienic products.
We should also not neglect to include men in the conversation because they often engage with women and girls. As we celebrate world Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, let us change the narrative by making sure our women and girls access quality sanitary towels and fighting to end period stigma.
Akinyi is a Youth Advocate at the Network for Adolescent and Youth of Africa (NAYA)