By Constance Ndeleko
This is a special phase in every woman’s life when it reaches that period of the month when ‘the friends are in town’ or when they are getting their menstrual period. This is a moment that every girl, woman waits for but it is not that easy to maintain the transition process if one doesn’t have the necessary facilities to normalize the situation at hand. It requires total cleanness, comfort and great hygiene.
Some communities consider it as impure and unclean whereby they are restricted to certain places just because of the changes they experience each and every month. This goes even to young children who start their menses at a tender age of even nine years. They are forced to be in solitude, away from the rest of the family, they cannot near the cattle or cannot drink milk or eat meat as they are termed as dirty which in term makes the child feel self-conscious of something which is of natural course.
This has made it difficult for a child who has started her menses to dialogue about it and even mothers finding it super challenging to educate their daughters on it. The girls don’t even want to share this amazing changeover with their parents; For the fear of the perception the community has and traditions that have been carried on for generations and generations. Whilst, they need all the support they can get from the society to make this process smooth.
It is not an easy natural transition process on these young girls as they get to experience a lot of changes emotionally, physically and mentally and need to be talked about. It is our role and obligation as the society to safeguard and prepare them. But then with these laid back taboos, perception and traditions still being carried on, it still a bit crazy to ensure that they are receiving adequate sustenance and education about the changes that are happening in their bodies with tranquility.
Can you imagine the predicament when they see that spot and no one will talk to you about it? Everyone distancing themselves from you. Well how about when you started your period? imagine having no one to talk to or about it!
It is sad that in some parts of Kenya children are still dealing with this issue of messing their panties because they lack the right products to use during their cycle which brings in about health hazard and endangering their lives. Some tend not to leave the house at all during that period of the month. They cannot attend certain ceremony and if they do it is at a distant separate from others. Yes, hard to believe but these are some of the traditions still being carried on in the 21st century. Very excruciating period for a child to experience this.
As a society we need to make this a smooth transition and not an interference from the normalcy. we need to ensure children get educated of the changes that are happening in their bodies. They need the awareness of how, when and what products to use during these times. Early child education on menstrual health is a big deal to the society to ensure they grow up in an environment that is healthy, understanding and caring about them.
They need to know about sanitary towels, re-usable and disposable one, tampons and finally menstrual cups. These are lessons that should be taught in school to both boys and girls to bring about understanding of the body changes and growth so that boys can support them instead of laughing at them when they see the red spot. We need to have facilities and infrastructure that is hygienic to lift up the hygiene of these young adolescents. Well the Kenyan Government has at least tried to support and ensure that the girl child receives sanitary towels. The Ministry of public service, youth and gender affairs, State department of gender affairs led the distribution of pads where they set a figure of 470 million for 2017 -2018 budget supported by county commissioners and women representative who engage in to ensure smooth distribution but the question still remains,
Is this really enough? What happens to children who are not in school? How, where will they get them from? This still remains a challenge in our society and in the nation too.
At least 2 Million women and children don’t have access to pads. It is amazing to know Sanitary towels bill was signed into a bill by president Kenyatta and awaits implementation. Free pads might be a solution yes or no. But if WE’RE not sustainable on the consistency of distribution then we will fail. We also need a Solution that is good for the environment.
Perhaps a lift on taxing pads could be a way greater deal, re-usable pads for those who cannot afford it is a remarkable idea as pads stands as a necessity not a luxury even though in some places like North eastern Kenya we understand the hardship with water shortages which intern pose another challenge.
Without supporting this young future generation then we will fail as a community while we understand that girl child tends to miss at least one and a half month of school annually due to menses, a situation that we need to create more awareness on and support the girl child to be in school regardless of the days.
Streamlining mentor-ship program, investing more on education of menstrual health to children and the society is building a bright future for the rest of the generations to come. Talking more about limits, stigmatization, taboos and perceptions will ensure these children menstruate with self-worth in a healthy environment
Girls having periods at a younger age needs to get adolescent health education at an early age. Let’s get involved on how we should help a child in the society. Finding ways into concrete sustainable options and solutions. Well let’s teach our children that it is great to be a woman, let’s maintain good health and hygiene.
How affordable are they? Do we care of the Risk factors on the use of tampons, pads, and introduction of re-usable pads? How safe are they on a child and how long can they be used for?
Chemical ingredients shouldn’t be used on pads due to infections and irritations on the private part, perfumes which might stand as chemical also and bleaches that some use to make the pads look clean and white are health hazard to even our children.
Prolonged use of pads and tampons is a great source of breeding bacteria and infections due to warmth and moisture in the naturals. Recommended time is 2-3 hours to change a pad/tampon depending on the heaviness of the flow. Vaginal washes recommended by gynecologist, clean water, soaps with no chemicals may help during washing.
We should fight to enlighten our children on menstrual health and strive to ensure that it is among subjects that are taught in the syllabus at even class three. We should have more campaigns to create awareness on menstrual health to the society instead of people shying away from the topic.
Has it been given the importance and relevance it deserves? Not real. Every May 28th is annual awareness day that was initiated by German based NGO WASH United in 2014.we should talk more often on the issue to better the lives of the children. Let’s all get bold and beautiful.
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