Making Waves member, Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, is the founder and team leader of Positive Young Women Voices in Kenya. The following article is by Claire Lungahi, a volunteer with Positive Young Women Voices. It was first published on their website for Menstruation Day, 28 May 2020.
Accessing menstrual products is more than just dealing with blood and feeling comfortable. Most women and girls worldwide lack access to sanitary products and information on periods.
This limits menstruators from being involved in normal daily activities, education, community and religious functions. Women and girls who undergo period poverty struggle to find decent employment due to a failure in completing education. They are also at greater risk of depression, anxiety, infections and even sexual and gender-based violence since they have to trade sex for sanitary towels. Due to period poverty, menstruators experience period shame and stigma from society. These challenges have increased rapidly during the Covid-19 pandemic due to closure of informal and formal workplaces.
Gender inequality and cultural factors to some extent are major contributors to menstrual stigma. In most settings, periods are viewed as a taboo whereby women and girls are restricted from enjoying their emancipation as human beings. Where women and girls aren’t able to discuss and share experiences on menstruation, this forces them to become victims of teenage pregnancies.
Menstruation is the only blood not shed from violence yet it seems to be the blood that scares most people.
Our society views mensuration as secret and something that can’t be publicised. Even in the media, sanitary towel advertisements never show the colour of blood in demonstrations but use blue.
A society where for a woman or girl to buy a pad she has to ensure there are no people around or even struggles to have a black paper bag so that no one notices she’s carrying a sanitary towel.
A society that views periods as a women’s issue yet we are all products of missed menstruation.
A society that puts menstruators in the position of hating periods instead of celebrating them.
A society that sidelines women’s and girls’ needs.
ITS TIME FOR ACTION! We need to demystify stigma, myths and misconceptions surrounding menstruation. Distribution of sanitary towels isn’t the only solution. Let’s challenge societal norms and push for policies that prioritises girls and women needs.
Let’s normalise menstruation and educate the society to change their perception that menstruation is not just a women’s issue but a human issue. Let’s involve men and boys in menstrual hygiene conversations as through this they’ll be able to understand that menstruation is a natural process.
Its time for everyone to break barriers and embrace menstruation as path of life. Menstruation isn’t a luxury, it’s a Human Right. Period.
#NoPeriodShame #EndPeriodPoverty #ItsTimeForAction
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