WSSCC Menstrual Hygiene Management training in Kenya breaks silence on menstruation


The first national six-day training of trainers was organised in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and UNICEF


The first national six-day training of trainers was organised in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and UNICEF

In order to break the silence on menstruation and empower government officials with the knowledge and skills on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), WSSCC, in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, UNICEF and other partners held a six-day Training of Trainers(ToT) in Naivasha from 28 July to 3 August.

Credit: WSSCC

The workshop was the first national ToT and was attended by 77 participants from Kenya, Niger, Tanzania and South Africa. It was officially opened by Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health in the Kenyan Ministry of Health, Dr Chris Williams, WSSCC Executive Director and Daniel Kurao GSF Kenya Programme Manager also delivered opening remarks. This workshop is the latest in MHM ToTs conducted in Africa since June 2014. WSSCC has conducted three trainings in West and Central Africa between 2014 and 2016 and one in South Asia in 2015. A total of 300 people have been trained and in the regions of West and Central Africa alone over 2600 persons have been informed on the subject from trainers. Through its holistic three-angled approach WSSCC promotes a human rights-based methodology on MHM, looking at breaking the silence (taboos and stigma), managing menstruation hygienically and safe reuse and disposal solutions. “MHM is an issue of life, not a gender issue, it provides an entry point for many other issues that we are not comfortable talking about and initiating a wider discussion on equality and power that is long overdue,” said Williams, reiterating WSSCC’s commitment to put equality and non-discrimination front and centre of their work.

Credit: Kenya WASH Alliance
Credit: Kenya WASH Alliance

The ToT in Kenya comes at an important time and forms part of a larger process as Kenya has embarked on a process of policy transformation, and has recently launched a revised Sanitation and Hygiene policy (which now integrates Menstrual Hygiene Management) to all the 47 counties. “The training has been an eye opener,” said Victoria Mulili, Head of programme distribution of sanitary towels in the Kenyan Ministry of Education, adding that MHM programming has to be taken to the next level. “It needs to include giving information to girls and breaking the silence. The Ministry will not sit on the information, but as early as tomorrow, information will go out. By integrating MHM in ongoing activities and giving out information, MHM will cascade to different levels.” Shedding light on MHM Ten County First Ladies who are members of the Kenya County First Ladies Association were crowned as MHM champions as they committed to help break the silence and bring MHM out of the shadows. H.E. the First Lady Nazi Kivutha from Makueni County and Vice Chair of the County First Ladies Association explained how she learnt a lot from the training and how her whole understanding of MHM has drastically changed and will help her improve the work she has been doing in her county. “Even though I’ve been doing this, I’ve been doing it in a haphazard way,” she said, talking about her work in the county. “I would just give sanitary towels; the disposal is a real factor. As we give sanitary towels, where is this waste going?” An important part of the training was to introduce participants to the idea of safe re-use and disposal solutions of sanitary material with a presentation on evidence-based solutions to safe disposal of sanitary waste, as well as legal and policy framework for health care waste management in Kenya.

Leaving no one behind At the core of its method, the MHM training seeks to fully include people with disabilities making sure that no one is left behind as regardless of their abilities, they experience the same biological and physical changes as anyone else. This idea was highlighted in a session where a participant showed to the audience how to say the word menstruation in sign language.

As no one is left behind in the MHM approach, men were also active participants in the training in sessions aimed at demystifying menstruation and sharing their experience with menstruation. “It was the first time to speak about menstruation since I was born. The first few days were a cultural shock. I thought this is not my business, but ladies’ business,” said Melitus Kabar from Kisii County about the training. “I now commit to be a champion for MHM. I realize that I have been unfair to ladies in the past. I commit to include MHM in the workplace in the budget in my county. This is within my reach, and it must start from me.”

Another crucial part of the training includes the MHM Lab, which aims to transform menstruation into a matter of pride and help women and girls stop suffering in silence. All 77 participants had the opportunity to participate in the lab session which serves as a safe place that allows women and girls to regain control of a basic but fundamental part of their well-being. The cadre of trainers who participated in the workshop will in the near future support initiatives to train more TOTs in additional countries in the region which could include Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda. In addition, with the participation of trainees from counties where the Global Sanitation Fund is present, GSF programmes will start looking at mainstreaming MHM into their approaches. Here are links to four films that were screened during the workshop, setting the context of MHM: Menstrual Hygiene Management around the world No Relief

Disabled Children Racing - what solidarity actually means The Red Thread - Breaking the Silence in India Reall all the Storify highlights from the training: