STIGMA AND TABOOS

Counties to budget for menstrual hygiene

Menstruating women and girls are wrongly considered to be ‘contaminated, dirty and impure

In Summary

•The Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy 2019-2013 was launched by the Ministry on Thursday

•Kenya is the first nation to develop a stand-alone MHM policy

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the launch of the MHM Policy on May 28, 2020
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the launch of the MHM Policy on May 28, 2020
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Counties will now be required to have a dedicated budgetary allocation for menstrual hygiene management activities.

They will also be required to provide affordable and easy access to healthcare for menstrual health issues, including those caused by poor menstrual hygiene and those linked with other diseases;

Counties have also been tasked with ensuring the provision of WASH/MHM facilities, services and products in learning institutions, workplace and public spaces.

The Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy 2019-2013 launched by the Ministry on Thursday also dictates that counties ensure safe disposal of menstrual waste by executing the guidelines and standards for the management of MHM waste.

The policy was launched to ensure that all women and girls in Kenya can manage menstruation hygienically, freely, with dignity without stigma or taboos, and with access to the right information on MHM, menstrual products, services and facilities; and to safely dispose of menstrual waste.

“This policy is meant to create an enabling environment for implementation of menstrual hygiene and management interventions in Kenya. It will also ensure women and girls have access to safe and hygienic products,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said during the launch of the policy.

Kenya is the first nation to develop a stand-alone MHM policy through a multi stakeholder consultative and inclusive process,” Kagwe said.

The Health Ministry in 2016 commissioned a situation analysis study as a step towards developing the policy.

From the analysis, it was discovered that minimal attention is given to menstrual health and hygiene with adolescent girls and boys reporting that it is shameful to discuss menstruation.

The myths perpetuated by this silence and stigma results in shame and confusion, poor hygiene during the menstrual period, incidence of urinary tract and vaginal infections, absenteeism from school and work and a sense of poor self-worth that persists long after menstrual period.

Almost half of Kenyan women and girls interviewed believed that it was not correct to talk about or discuss menstruation and more than half believed that menstrual blood contained harmful substances.

Under, the new policy, the Health Ministry in collaboration with the media shall establish and implement a media awareness programme and campaign for creating awareness on menstruation and good menstrual management practices

“The stigma against menstruation runs deep, having been rooted for years in the minds of men and women alike due to inaccurately held social beliefs about menstruation,” the policy document states.

“Menstruating women and girls are wrongly considered to be ‘contaminated, dirty and impure’.”

The health ministry will set standards, guidelines and regulatory mechanisms to ensure the achievement of the objectives set in this policy.

On the other hand, the Education Ministry has been tasked with generating data on the number of girls who have reached the age of puberty to facilitate the provision of free sanitary pads initiative.

“The ministry will also be required to incorporate reproductive health and menstrual hygiene into the curriculum in learning institutions for all relevant sectors,” it states.

Ministry of water and sanitation will coordinate with other relevant ministries to implement the adequate supply of water to ensure women and girls can manage menstruation safely and hygienically in learning institutions, work places, household level and public spaces.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards has been tasked with developing and setting standards for menstrual management materials, conducting forensic and surveillance audit for menstrual hygiene products in the market and inspect imported MHM products at all points of entry.

The National Treasury will be required to set aside a national budget for Menstrual Hygiene Management interventions, while the Trade ministry will be required to build local capacity for production of MHM products.

“Ministry of Labour and Social protection to promote the integration of MHM into various programme for persons with disabilities.”

At individual level, households will be required to ensure that the sanitation and waste disposal facilities in their homes meet structural standards set by the health ministry, are used properly and maintained in good working condition.

They will also be required to dispose of menstrual waste generated from the household using environmentally sustainable hygienic method.