OPINION: Let’s adopt a Red Warrior mentality, talk openly about menstrual health
By Janet Mbugua
A year ago today, I convened the Menstrual Health Inclusion Conference, one of the first of its kind, aimed at bringing together different menstruators, to better understand diverse menstrual needs and challenges.
Menstrual health is about informing women and girls about their bodies and teaching them to understand family planning, reproductive health and giving them the space to ask questions.
It was incredible seeing a full room, hearing testimonials that captured such diverse view points and listen to panelists who want to inform and inspire. It is to date one of my proudest moments! Yet so much remains to be done.
Women and young girls who menstruate are ostracized from basic activities, like eating certain foods, or socializing, all over the world.
Period poverty– the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management–remains the reality for many women and girls in Kenya.
The Inua Dada Foundation started out of being triggered during Periods of Shame and though we have intervened and will continue to, our strength has been in media and advocacy.
Years later, I felt the book–My First Time– was necessary as a way to use storytelling to influence policy change and de-stigmatize.
The Menstrual Hygiene Management policy was launched in June 2020. It seeks to guarantee all Kenyan women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms including dignity, safety, participation, health, education and decent work.
And during the MHM Conference last year, Narok County Woman Rep Soipan Tuya said we still need political will because even though the MHM policy was signed, Kenyan women and girls are yet to see any change.
She challenged us to bring conversations out of boardrooms and hear voices of men and women from across the spectrum to ensure everyone is on board.
Several speakers echoed her sentiments and also highlighted the need to talk about mentoring adolescent girls especially those from informal settlements; make sanitary products and information more accessible for persons living with disabilities; provision of better and more quality products for African women; having male allies support women and girls in ending period stigma as well as following up on implementation of relevant policies.
Culture and religion were also identified as challenges that affect menstrual health management as they result in secrecy and perception of conversations about periods as taboo.
We need to continue on the journey to advocate tirelessly for menstrual equality and equip ourselves with the knowledge needed to better understand our bodies, our cycles, our health.
Let’s adopt a #RedWarrior mentality and talk openly about Menstrual health.
Janet Mbugua is the founder of Inua Dada, author of ‘My First Time’ and an advocate of gender equality