The government is committed to provision of accessible, affordable healthcare services for all citizens.
Health CS Susan Nakhumicha in a speech read on her behalf by the Director in charge of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the ministry, Adan Mohamed, during celebrations to mark the World Menstrual Hygiene day in Busia, said the government intends to achieve this by promoting, presenting and ensuring that every Kenyan is able to access equal and quality healthcare.
At the same time, Nakhumicha stated that the country cannot achieve Universal health coverage and sustainable development goals without addressing the needs of women and girls.
“Thus, addressing issues related to menstruation will lead us towards achieving the SDGs on health,” she said, adding that SDGs aim at reducing inequalities.
The CS explained that menstruation is a normal health and biological process experienced by girls and women globally.
“A woman will menstruate for around 37 years of her lifetime,” she explained, adding that the process is a significant portion of a female’s lifetime.
Nakhumicha pointed out that around 10 million females undergo menstruation every month, adding that the process has social implications in the country in terms of sanitary products, water, sanitation and establishment of waste management systems at households, educational institutions and offices.
“Kenyan adolescent girls miss approximately 3.5 million learning days per month due to lack of funds to purchase sanitary towels,” she said, adding that there was need to set aside funds for purchase of such important items.
She at the same time stated that girls struggle to access information on puberty and menstruation due to lack of supportive school staff or family members to discuss the issues.
“Studies indicate that women and girls in Kenya face several challenges regarding access to information on mensuration, affordable and appropriate sanitary products, poor sanitation facilities and lack of proper avenues for disposal of mensuration waste,” she said, adding that the scenario is compounded by taboos.
The CS further said there was a need to break the silence and discuss such issues in schools, families and places of work, so as to equip the girls with the necessary information.
“Sanitation facilities for women and girls should have hand washing facilities to ensure hygiene and safety, education on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) options,” she said, adding that uneducated adolescents rely on homemade pads.
On his part, Busia Governor Dr Paul Otuoma called for concerted efforts in addressing the stigma and myths surrounding mensuration.
Dr Otuoma added that Busia county government is determined to enhance necessary support and awareness creation on matters of menstrual hygiene during his tenure as the Menstrual Health hygiene ambassador.
“It is our duty to bring the topic of menstruation in our households, assemblies, cabinet and parliament so that policy makers can understand why resources and policies need to be developed to support this noble cause of safeguarding the dignity of girls and women,” he said.
He urged counties that have not developed the menstrual health management policies to work closely with the Lake Region Economic Block (LREB) secretariat and harmonize standards to upscale and operationalize activities that will help achieve the national Menstrual Health Management goals.
The governor directed the departments of Education, Gender and Health to work together in improving the available policies regarding menstrual hygiene management in the county.
“Let us be motivated, considering that a large number of students are unable to carry out their normal daily activities when undergoing a normal biological phenomenon. It is our duty to improve productivity,” he said.
Spouses to Governors from LREB region led by their chairperson Emily Nyaribo also expressed their commitment to fight the stigma and shame surrounding mensuration by sensitizing the locals to engage in open conversation on the topic.
By Salome Alwanda and Victoria Magar