NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya launched its first-ever standalone menstrual hygiene management (MHM) policy and strategy on this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May), marking a significant milestone for menstruators in the country. The multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder process to the recent launch took more than five years to come to fruition, and the much-awaited policy now provides more robust support for menstrual challenges faced by girls and women across the nation and in scaling up the management of menstrual hygiene for those in need. It also sets out a framework for clarification of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the country’s MHM space.
Asked for their views on what the policy launch means for girls, women and actors in Kenya’s MHM space, menstrual health experts offered a variety of comments:
Virginia Kamowa, WSSCC’s Technical Expert, Menstrual Health and Hygiene
It is exciting for us that, with the government leadership and ownership, the standalone MHM policy dream in Kenya has been realised. WSSCC is exalted to have been part of the journey through the provision of technical and financial support to the process. Further, we are glad we supported the government to create a platform for cross-ministerial and multi-sectoral consultation and dialogue to ensure the policy was a product of diverse voices and aspirations.
The success of every policy is in its implementation. We trust the government will commit financial resources. Investing in menstrual health to address period stigma, and the provision of water and sanitation facilities and innovations for menstrual waste disposal will go a long way in ensuring that all menstruators are reached with relevant menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) services. No girl or woman should be limited by menstruation as they strive to reach their potential.
Daniel Kurao, Programme Manager of the Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme
It has been a journey, and we are proud to be associated with the launch of this policy by the Minister for Health. We know that in Kenya, there are close to 10 million menstruating women and girls. There are a lot of issues around menstruation in the country, including issues around taboos, poor hygiene services, poor access to menstrual products, and a weak legislative framework around menstruation. The launch of the menstrual hygiene policy creates an opening for legislation to be made around menstruation. It will also allow counties to make programmes that are friendly to menstruators. This policy will help call actors to action at the local level, at the sub-county level, at the national level and even at the global level to address issues around improving access to water and sanitation.
Janet Mule, WASH Officer at the Ministry of Health
One thing many people are unaware of is the relationship between menstrual hygiene and COVID-19. What we need to understand and appreciate as Kenyans is that menstruation does not stop for pandemics. One of the pillars of responding to COVID-19 is WASH and IPC (Infection Prevention and Control). It is crucial as we wash our hands to control COVID-19 that we also realise that hygiene is one of the strategies for ensuring that women are able to menstruate with dignity. They need water, they need soap, they need privacy when they want to change their menstrual products. We believe this policy is good for us, and that it is a step ahead for us because we know that we have actors who are implementing menstrual hygiene interventions. We understand that the government is going to incorporate menstrual hygiene interventions in their planning of the response to COVID-19.
Mary Kibugi, Head of Partnerships AfriPad
We know that after the launch of the MHM policy, we will be able to follow up on all the standards of menstrual hygiene products, including reusable cups. This gives the women and girls of this country a choice. We expect that there is a standard that is going to be developed because, currently in Kenya, we have standards only for disposable pads. There is a standard that is being developed for reusable pads, and they will also develop standards for other products like tampons and menstrual cups. This is something that we are looking forward to because it will reduce period poverty across the country.
Janet Mbugua, Founder Inua Dada Foundation
It’s so amazing that a document with the potential to make such a difference in the lives of millions of girls and women has finally been launched. The policy provides a framework that organisations can now use when they are developing their own interventions. We definitely need to have measures to hold policymakers accountable and also encourage the custodian of this menstrual health policy to allow different organisations to get involved and help in implementing it.
Alex Manyasi, WSSCC National Coordinator in Kenya
With COVID-19 cases, we are more likely to forget about menstruation and the negative effect that comes with it. So, to remember the 10 million women and girls who are menstruating, it is important to launch the policy so that it can come to the top of the agenda of the government and other development partners for purposes of putting into action the ideals the policy provides for.
Beverly Mademba, K-SHIP Programme Officer
I look forward to getting busy implementing what the policy and the strategy intend to do. This provides a platform to start work. It provides a platform now to begin pressing for financial resources to be allocated. It provides an opportunity to continue building capacities and an opportunity to continue doing the work. Remember, we are all pressing on the three prongs: we must break the silence, we must speak about safe and hygienic management, and about safe and hygienic disposal. This policy and strategy provide an avenue that these things can be done on a national scale. We would not have succeeded if menstruators are not able to menstruate safely and with dignity.
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