According to UNESCO, one in every ten African girls’ misses school because of poor reproductive health, eventually leading to an increased number of school dropouts.
Reproductive health is an issue that affects a large percentage of Kenyan women and girls. However, talking about it is perceived as a taboo in most communities leaving teenage girls to face its consequences.
Ms. Cecy, a second-year University student narrates how she undergoes challenging moments in dealing with menstrual health. She recalls that sometimes, her elder brother does not understand her situation and beats her for alleged ignorance.
“It was during the holidays, and I was in my menses. I tried asking for some money from my brother for the pads, but he said he was broke. The flow started, and the pain was unbearable. I could not perform the house chores neither was I ready to explain that to my brother. Later in the evening, he beat me for not performing the house chores,” laments Cecy.
As she explains, girls go through a lot of harassment from their brothers, elders, and parents during their periods. Sometimes, the flow extends to even weeks, and they are forced to use rugs and old clothes as sanitary towels.
“Girls face monthly challenges associated with reproductive health, with some not sure where and who to share them with. If only much attention could be given to this essential topic, then perhaps it would eliminate some challenges we face,” she recommends.
Treza Gift, a nurse at Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), attributes poor menstrual health to poverty. She says the government should help these school girls by providing them with sanitary towels to keep them in school.
“I used to skip school when on my menses when I lacked money for the pads. One packet of the pads go for around ksh.80, not every teenage girl can afford that. The increased number of teenage pregnancies in some way is triggered by these girls wanting money for their menstrual needs,” says Treza.
Ms. Treza says lack of awareness on this sensitive topic has left girls with many unanswered questions.
“People relate all vaginal infections to sex, which is not true. Some of these infections are as a result of poor menstrual health. Teenagers should be taught on safety measures of dealing with menses. Good hygienic practices, such as the use of sanitary pads and adequate washing of the genital areas, are essential during menstruation period” Treza explains.
Dr. Sila Adea, the manager, FHOK Kakamega branch, says young girls are faced with numerous menstrual challenges that need experts to solve.
“Awareness of menstrual health should be intensified at the grassroots. Poor menstrual practices may lead to infections such as candidiasis and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and bacterial vaginosis which is more expensive to treat,” Adea says.
According to Dr. Adea, some menstrual cases are very severe, and parents should be keen on their daughters so as to note them and take them to medical centers.
“We have Menorrhagia, which is the excessive bleeding during menses and may come with abnormal pains. There is also metomenorrhagia and most importantly, the dysmenorrhea, which means experiencing very severe pains during menses. Such conditions also affect teens psychologically since they are not willing to share the problem,” Explains Adea.
FHOK is a health clinic that majorly deals with reproductive health.