Kenya paves the way for menstruators

Date: 26th November 2019

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The government approves a policy exclusively on menstrual health and hygiene

By Kevin Mwanza

WSSCC Technical Expert on Menstrual Hygiene Management, Virginia Kamowa standing left with other members of the Menstrual Health and Hygiene Collective platform

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Government of Kenya will provide more robust support for menstrual challenges faced by girls and women across the nation after approving a landmark policy dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene on 21 November 2019.

The stand-alone National Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) policy aims at scaling up the management of menstrual hygiene for those in need.

Taking a holistic approach around menstruation, Kenya will put more focus on tackling taboos and stigma that affect effective management of menstruation, product choices and suitable facilities for management and disposal solutions.

In a statement issued by the President’s Strategic Communications Unit, the Government of Kenya explicitly acknowledged menstrual health and hygiene as “a rights issue,” bringing it into “the mainstream of the country’s health and development agenda by considering the prevailing social, economic, cultural and demographic contexts of women and girls.”

“We are extremely happy how the government has picked it and moved with it,” said Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, on the sideline of an equality and non-discrimination workshop in Nairobi, organized by WSSCC. “We look forward to implementing it. Should there be some concerns, we will look at them when they come up and make changes accordingly.”

Applauding the government’s decision, Mr Neville Okwaro, an MHM trainer and consultant with the Ministry of Health WASH Hub, said, “We now have a progressive document which is going to be inclusive and also identifies some vulnerable and marginalized population.”

Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, seated left, was part of the panellists at a recent discussion in Nairobi on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

While the government has already been distributing sanitary pads to schoolgirls under sanitation and hygiene health programmes, officials will now be able to include fragile and vulnerable communities such as refugees, slum dwellers and street families in state-led MHM programmes.

According to Mr Okwaro, the new MHM policy will help integrate menstrual hygiene management into existing state programmes such as Anti-FGM campaigns, campaigns against early child marriages and gender-based violence, and notably the Beyond Zero campaign that is spearheaded by the country’s First Lady to address issues of child and maternal health.

The policy formulation process has been ongoing since 2016 with a first draft of the MHM policy developed by a technical working group, including Amref Health Africa, Kenya Water for Health Organization, UNICEF, WASH Alliance Kenya, World Vision, WSSCC and Zana Africa, among others, with support of the Ministry of Health.

Ms Beverly Mademba from the Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme said it was important that the process of formulating the policy was extended as it allowed for all partners of menstrual health and hygiene to come on board and share their inputs and also to take into consideration how financing will be done during implementation.

“We had the chance at the International Conference on Population and Development in November to raise the profile of MHM as a key pillar in sexual and reproductive health. It’s great that this policy is being approved right after that event,” Ms Mademba said.

“With the new policy put in place, we look forward to key actions for effective policy implementation. That includes multisectoral and stakeholder efforts to promote implementation, commitment to meaningful resources and investment, and clear measures to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Virginia Kamowa, MHM Technical Expert at WSSCC.

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