Over 2, 000 girls from vulnerable backgrounds in Katulani Sub-County in Kitui have received sanitary towels to last them three months at a cost of Sh 85, 000 from well-wishers.
Speaking to KNA, Katulani Sub-County Deputy County Commissioner Shufaa Mwijuma, who led the exercise, disclosed that many girls in Kitui County continue to miss classes due to absenteeism related to lack of sanitary towels to manage their menstruation.
“Access to sanitary towels is a big challenge for many girls from poor families in Kitui with UNESCO estimating that around half of all school-age girls do not have access to sanitary towels,” said Mwijuma.
Mwijuma noted that the onset of monthly menses prevents girls from participating and attending school because they feel ashamed or “unclean”.
“There are many instances where girls drop out of school once they start their periods. Staying at home and being out of education leaves them even more vulnerable to violations of their rights such as child marriage,” she lamented.
The Administrator observed that menstruation is linked to girls’ dignity and has a tremendous impact on their access to education and performance in school as girls will often miss out on school days when they are menstruating.
Mwijuma singled out the culture of silence around menstruation which leads to it being viewed as a weakness and stigma for women and girls.
“The menstruation subject is hardly ever discussed freely in families, schools or the public. I am leading an initiative to change the discourse, visiting schools, supporting girls from vulnerable backgrounds access the sanitary towels,” she said.
She further disclosed that it has been previously reported from various marginalized regions and rural areas that school girls have been using unhygienic materials such as torn pieces of cloth, mattress sponge, animal skin, old rags, leaves, cow dung or even dig a hole on the ground to sit on for the whole period as a means to manage their menstrual flow.
“Use of unhygienic materials can lead to leakage, infections, psychological discomfort which may culminate to poor performance and stigmatization,” said the Deputy County Commissioner.
Mwijuma pointed out that the inaccessibility of menstrual products resulted in embarrassment, anxiety and shame when girls and women stained their clothes.
“We have received with utter shock news that schoolgirls describe menstruation as a time of anxiety and discomfort especially at school, leading to low concentration in class,” she said.
Dr Irene Kasalu, Kitui County Woman Representative warned chiefs against abetting mediation over rape or defilement cases in the county.
Kasalu lamented that rape cases are spiraling each day adding that majority of the perpetrators are fathers adding that it is criminal to meditate over such cases adding that culpable chiefs will face the law.
Kasalu said that this scenario is precipitated by incessant dissuasion by emissaries sent by perpetrators to subvert justice by ignoring government arbitration agencies in a bid to allow the intervention of kangaroo courts moderated by the elders determine the matter.
By Yobesh Onwong’a