WHAT IS MENSTRUAL POVERTY ?
Menstrual poverty is a global problem that affects women around the world. In East Africa, it has two dimensions. First - many women cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. Second - the sanitary pads are simply not there.
Formative research shows that girls face monthly challenges, with 65% of women and girls in Kenya unable to afford sanitary pads. Only 50% of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Just 32% of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product. And only 12% of girls in Kenya would be comfortable receiving the information from their mother.
A packet of sanitary pads costs $1. Around 36% of Kenyans, however, live on less than the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.
Lack of hygiene products can make you feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed
In rural areas, many girls use unsanitary forms of protection such as pieces of materace, feathers and grass leafs causing infections and painful sores.
Lack of proper education around menstruation makes some girls exchange dirty sanitary pads and some even to engage in sexual intercourse to buy basic hygiene products to fight for their future.
In rural Kenya, 2 out of 3 pad users receive pads from sexual partners. Period poverty is so prevalent in Kenya that 10% of 15-year-old girls were having sex to pay for period products.
Period poverty contributes to global and regional gender inequity, as women are forced to solicit help from men in order to satisfy a basic health need.
Many young girls in Kenya, who do not have access to safe, hygienic products stay at home throughout the cycle, with huge consequences, such as expulsion from school, early pregnancy, or the subsequent lack of earnings.
On an average female students miss on 20% of the school year, because they are on their period. It is estimated that about 1 million women miss school per month.
Another important aspect is the correct disposal of pads. Conventional disposable sanitary pads are 90% plastic. ... If we consider the additional materials, such as packaging, plastic wings, adhesives and super absorbent gels (plastic) – each pad contains the equivalent of four plastic bags (about 2 grams of non-biodegradable plastic) An average sanitary pad can take up to 700 years to decompose. In Kenya, young girls bury dirty sanitary pads as there is no way to dispose of them properly.
One in every four girls between the age of 12 and 18 years in Uganda will drop out of school once they begin menstruating, and school absence rates triple from 7% to 28% during their period – Ministry of Education Performance Monitoring & Accountability Report,2020
Menstrual periods are an inevitable experience for any girl/woman within the reproductive age range. The Periods-start-age varies from one girl to another but it is often between the age of 9 years to 59. The experience comes with a lot of challenges of which bleeding is a constant and the intensity of flow is also relative, with some girls and women experiencing heavy flow or less.
Throughout Rwanda, most still believe that menstruating women and girls are dirty, and that menstrual blood is contaminated and may cause harm to plants, food and livestock. As a result, women and girls may face restrictions on their day-to-day behavior, including prohibition to attend religious ceremonies, handling food or sleeping in the house.
Young women and girls in Rwanda often experience fear or anxiety because of menstruation, particularly when they do not receive comprehensive MHH education . One study highlighted that menstruation can cause Rwanda women and girls to be scared of teasing and humiliation during their cycle, and some may even experience social ostracization while menstruating . Inadequate MHH hygiene and products may also cause women and girls to experience additional health issues, including reproductive and urinary tract infections (Ward, 2021). These issues are compounded in rural or conflict-affected areas, where women and girls often experience greater obstacles to their menstrual health.
In 2018, Tanzania’s government reported that 60% of women live in “absolute poverty.”
According to UNICEF, 27% of those living in the least developed countries like Tanzania lack access to sanitation services like a handwashing facility with water and soap at home. Managing periods is a major challenge. As a result, 85% of girls are forced to use unhygienic solutions, including using strips of cloth which can spread fungi and infection.
Other important figures include:
Water facilities not available in 38% of Tanzanian schools
Water facilities are not operational in 46% of the cases
63% of school latrines don’t have a place to dispose of sanitary pads
As of 2018, only 44.2 percent of schools in Tanzania had teachers trained on WASH issues, with only 50.8 percent of those teachers providing some type of feminine hygiene products to young girls. Maji Safi Group is committed to helping end these barriers to proper feminine hygiene. But first, we must seek to understand the available resource options and the issues with making them available for these women.