Western Kenya first ladies join menstrual hygiene campaign

Heartwarming performance by Okok Girls and the CEC Gender and Sports during an event to mark the International Menstrual Day at Okok Education Centre in Ndhiwa Homabay. [Jayne Rose Gacheri, Standard]

Seven innovation groups in Western Kenya have been awarded grants of Sh10 million each to research and develop technology-based solutions and designs to solve sanitation problems.

The project implemented by USAID through a programme, dubbed The Hackathon, is aimed at addressing the gaps in sanitation and menstrual hygiene that counties in the region have been struggling to address for several years.

According to USAID Western Kenya Chief of Party Paul Orengoh, most households are struggling to afford basic sanitation.

Reports by USAID indicate that about 85 per cent of households in rural areas cannot afford sanitary towels. “It is hoped that the developed solutions will increase the uptake of sanitation and menstrual Health management products in the market,” said Orengoh.

Out of 15 innovators who presented concepts, only seven were considered. The seven concepts will go through a twelve-month trial period. They were awarded the grants in Kisumu yesterday. During the event, spouses of governors from Western Kenya raised concerns over the status of basic sanitation in the region, saying some families do not even know what sanitary pads are.

Bungoma’s Margret Makelo said the government must realise that the few sanitary towels they donate are shared among all female family members.

“This is why we need sanitary towels in all our public toilets and public spaces for more women and not only teenage girls to access. Remember the ones donated in school are shared among aunties, other sisters and even their mothers,” she added.

Betty Orengo, the spouse to Siaya Governor, said the Hackathon provided a platform for discussing a whole range of issues, including menstruation hygiene and sanitation.

Menstrual hygiene, a human right - period

 Nyamira First Lady Emily Nyaribo said the major challenges in the region are diseases and teenage pregnancies.

“We are all aware that within our households, most families cannot afford sanitary towels. The disposal of sanitary towels is also not so well in the country. We see a lot of them in our dumpsites, so we want to find how best to innovate or dispose of them,” added Mrs Nyaribo.

 Migori First Lady Agnes Ochillo said the children and even adults in many households cannot afford sanitary towels, while others have never used the essential commodity.

“This is a problem affecting the entire Lake region. Remember women go through menstruation monthly, and taxing this commodity is going to harm them more. We need a long-lasting solution to this sanitary issue,” she noted.

Kakamega’s Kasili Barasa argued that condoms were prioritised more because of the HIV pandemic, and because strides have been on the pandemic, attention must shift to sanitary towels.