By Victoria Nyokabi– Youth Alive Kenya
On May 28th each year, it is Menstrual Hygiene Day which rallies in raising awareness about menstrual health across the world. This year theme is ‘Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health.” Approximately 800 million women and girls are having their period right now, yet across the globe, they face barriers to properly manage them. This calls for a world free of period poverty and stigma and recommits to building that future through urgent investment and a call for action. The subject of menstruation is still something that is considered taboo and shameful that we need to help break the silence, raise awareness, eradicate period poverty, and change negative social norms surrounding menstrual hygiene so that women and girls feel empowered to manage their periods hygienically with confidence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed menstrual inequities which continues to deepen across the globe. The measures imposed as a response to the pandemic in Kenya have resulted in economic stress in families that are putting girls and women at a disadvantage. Many have been cut off from essential sexual and reproductive health services and social networks.
Women and girls stand to benefit in unique ways from safe, reliable, sustainable sanitation, and hygiene. This will free up more of their time for education and employment, reduce their vulnerability to gender-based violence, provide dignity, and increase their voice and participation in economic empowerment.
Youth Alive! Kenya is at the fore front of championing Menstrual health and hygiene by our youth advocates in Kakamega County through Access is our Right project in collaboration with Y-ACT. We focus on having youths proactive participation in coming up with innovative ideas that will ensure dignified menstruation experiences while addressing sexual reproductive rights including teenage pregnancy, early sexual debut among adolescents as well as the rising cases of Sexual Gender Based Violence among youth using Menstrual Health and Hygiene as an entry strategy.
There is urgent need of having inclusive conversations on menstrual health and hygiene with all genders, which will help dismantle the stigma around periods. Besides, we should live in a world where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as menstruating.