Menstruation normal, healthy, nothing taboo about it

In Summary
  • Most girls having their first period are ashamed of talking to anyone, including their mothers
  • Typically, sexuality education is left to teachers

Menstruation is a monthly biological function and a major part of a woman’s reproductive health. The menstrual cramps can be painful, flow can be messy and timing inconvenient, but periods should never be shameful.

Menstruation and sexuality are considered taboo and hardly discussed in most Kenyan communities; parents do not discuss it with their children. Typically, sexuality education is left to teachers.

Most girls having their first period are ashamed of talking to anyone, including their mothers, and when they do the mother will only warn them not to play with boys as they would get pregnant.

Adolescent girls having their first periods skip school fearing ridicule or probably because they are unable to manage their periods adequately. Menstruation is mentioned briefly in biology class; a comprehensive approach is left out.

Ninety-eight per cent of adolescents girls experience their first period before their parents talk to them about it. This is because periods have long been associated with shame, secrecy and misinformation, largely due to the prevailing conservative cultural attitudes.

It means that girls are afraid to inform their parents or guardians when they start menstruating. As a result, they do not get the assistance they need to manage their menstrual health right from the start.

Menstruation is a normal and essential process for all women, which no one should be ashamed of. Comprehensive sexuality education should be allowed in schools to help teens, both boys and girls, make better choices regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

In many communities in Kenya, the educational opportunities, health and social status of millions of women and girls are undermined by poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, taboos and stigma, limited access to menstrual products and poor sanitation infrastructure.

As a result, their ability to reach their full potential is limited. It is important to elevate the conversation and empower women to start talking about their periods without fear of being stigmatised.

Naya Kenya Youth advocate