AWINJA: Call to sensitise Kenya's policymakers on menstrual challenges faced by women

Ensuring accessible treatment for all affected women is the need of the hour

In Summary
  • A report by WHO’s Commission on Women's Health in the African region has also highlighted the need for interventions across multiple sectors
  • When political leaders like her amplify women’s unheard voices for care and attention, it empowers those pushing for legislative changes
One in ten women suffers from Endometriosis.
One in ten women suffers from Endometriosis.
Image: COURTESY

The untimely and tragic death of Reggae icon Fyah Mummah Njambi Koikai has put the spotlight firmly on endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, causing severe pelvic pain.

Njambi not only heroically fought with her health challenges, and braved multiple surgeries but also advocated for more investment in healthcare for women. She often spoke about Atlanta in Georgia (a state in the Southeastern region of the United States) where dedicated centres help women suffering from this condition.

In order to honour her legacy, Kenya needs to take stock of the gaps in its healthcare system and I hope Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha Wafula will take the lead to establish care centres addressing endometriosis in Kenya. Ensuring accessible treatment for all affected women is the need of the hour.

I too have endured excruciatingly painful periods that at times impact my ability to walk. Despite being told repeatedly that this was normal and the pain would subside after childbirth, the suffering persisted, making it tough to manage professional responsibilities.

To ensure that other women do not suffer the way I have, my online petition, supported by the Nguvu Collective, seeks paid period leave in Kenya. The goal is to sensitise workspaces and policymakers to the painful challenges women face every month.

I call upon all Kenyan women to join me in this endeavour to ensure that Kenya too implements paid period leave like many other countries in the world like Zambia, Spain, Taiwan etc. As a young woman advocating for the healthcare rights of adolescent girls and women, my goal is to achieve gender inclusivity and equity in the workplace so that every woman can thrive and contribute her best.

I have also learned that our policymakers as well as a significant section of society, often disregard menstrual-related disorders. Menstruation has historically been considered a private matter, shrouded in taboos and stereotypes, rather than being recognised as a critical health and social issue deserving public attention and policy intervention. The time has come however to demand political accountability in the way menstruation-related problems are dealt with.

A report by WHO’s Commission on Women's Health in the African region has also highlighted the need for interventions across multiple sectors to address the issues connected with women’s health. Stating that governments are in the best position to coordinate various initiatives required for significant change, it emphasises how important it is to mobilise political will and commitment from the very beginning to create the necessary conditions for making the policies successful.

The demise of Njambi Koikai should be an eye-opener for our healthcare system. Many women MPs have already highlighted the urgent need for measures to equip public hospitals with specialised training and treatment for endometriosis. Among them is nominated MP Irene Mayaka who has sought a statement from the Departmental Committee on Health regarding the lack of specialised facilities for endometriosis treatment.

When political leaders like her amplify women’s unheard voices for care and attention, it empowers those pushing for legislative changes to ensure that the tragedy of Njambi's suffering and death is never repeated.

BLOG BY Nguvu Change Leader Sylvia Awinja

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