Menstrual Health Management
Words by Rebecca Mauru
Menstruation and Menstrual Health has always been considered an issue for women thus it was seen as a taboo to openly discuss it. Women have suffered in silence for a long time and some are still suffering with issues that pertaining to their menstrual health. Many have missed school, work and even church because of menstruation. Some cultures even go to the extent of putting women who are menstruating in isolation and not allowing them to cook or come close to anyone because they are considered to be unclean. This clearly shows that the misconceptions and myths that surround Menstruating and Menstrual health is a big challenge to women.
With all the silence surrounding menstruation, many women - especially girls from poor backgrounds - have been at great disadvantage and risk because they lack proper sanitary wear and disposal. They do not even have a consistent supply of clean and hygienic sanitary wear. Most girls use dry cow dung, old clothes, untreated cotton from the fields, while those who do not have these they even stay at home without anything to hold their blood. For those who can sometimes access sanitary pads, they cannot afford them every month because they are very expensive, making their parents or guardians forgo buying them.
There is a lot of misconceptions around dysmenorrhea. With some believing it is a spiritual curse or a sign that one will not be able to have children in their life. This has been the greatest unspoken subject in line with menstrual health. Even when a girl does have proper sanitary wear, the pain that they experience during menstruation has contributed greatly to missing of school and social gatherings. There is need to get proper information on what it is, what causes it and how it can be treated or managed.
To others who are using reusable pads they have faced a challenge of access to clean water and soap to consistently wash the pads they use. Most of the girls cannot even afford a bar of soap or even a clean source of water. These reusable pads needs a lot of sunshine and air thus making it difficult for a girl to hang them outside without getting stares from family members and the community at large. Since it is already considered a taboo to hang underwear in full view of everyone, doing that to sanitary pads is considered unthinkable. Proper disposal units for used sanitary pads are not available in most schools and if there is need to change the pad, the girl does that and has to go back home with the dirty pad for disposal.
This also has led to young girls engaging in a lot of things for them to be able to have sanitary pads. They are engaging in transactional sex further exposing them to HIV and STI's, even unwanted pregnancies, which leads to unsafe abortions, as it has been noted that these young women cannot negotiate for safe sex.
I believe it is time we end this silence about menstruation and menstrual health. We have to start acknowledging that menstrual health is a basic human right and has to be treated with equal importance. We have to make way for affordable and available sanitary wear for every girl child so they do not have to miss more school and social gatherings because of menstruation. Let it be openly discussed and remove all the taboos and misconceptions surrounding it. We have made some strides towards correcting these ills but there is still a very long way that we need to go with the help of everyone despite their age or gender.