Catherine Khayali: Period Poverty During Pandemics

It is stated that 50% -60% of girls in Kenya do not have access to proper sanitary products.

Periods or Menstruation are not everybody’s regular topics to talk about. But I am happy that there are young women out there who are working hard to break the stigma around the “taboo” topic. One such young woman is Catherine. She delves into the challenges young girls and women face especially during a pandemic when it comes to menstrual hygiene and access to sanitary products.

Meet Catherine Khayali, an enthusiast of women empowerment and loves advocating for girls’ rights, ending period Poverty, and advocating for gender equality and inclusivity. She has undergone trainings in female lead organizations like Akili Dada, a leadership incubator for young African women in Kenya, and also Moremi Africa. The trainings have helped her scale up her confidence and passion for helping African girls. She is also a girls champion at Power Dada, a community based organization that is committed to creating safe communities for women and Girls in Kisumu.

These are her thoughts on Period Poverty;

“The inadequate access to proper sanitary products is because of the high cost of sanitary towels. This leads to a lot of desperation and frustrations. Some girls are forced to wear 2 or 3 pants because they can’t afford menstrual products. Others try to find other means like using tissues and handkerchiefs which is risky, uncomfortable and unhealthy.

The covid-19 pandemic highlighted the real situation of period poverty in Kenya with a high number of girls not being able to afford menstrual products, forcing them to engage in premarital sex in order to get money for the towels. This, is one of the causes in the upsurge of teenage pregnancies in the country.

Period Poverty refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including and not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management. It is mostly experienced in Africa and other developing countries.

Period Poverty has also caused a lot of period shaming, stigma and even depression. Many girls still choose to miss school when they are in their periods than to go and get embarrassed. There was a case in Kenya where a girl decided to commit suicide after being shamed by her fellow pupils because she had soiled her dress.

Girls shy away from talking about their issues, because of inadequate safe spaces. Most girls choose to keep the pain to themselves not knowing that they are endangering themselves. We need girls to use their voices to break period taboos.

Due to the loud outcry of the girls on not having access to MHM products during the pandemic, Power Dada, a CBO in Kisumu came in to assist the girls through conducting door to door  MHM education while donating menstrual care packs (pant, soap, pads and tissue) to them . Through this “I GOT YOU SIS” initiative, they were able to reach  600 girls within the slum areas of  Kisumu while highlighting the importance of Period positivity during this period hence raising the period confidence of these girls.

We need to realize that period poverty is a real pandemic in itself, and it is not a one man’s fight. I, therefore call upon the Government to implement the law on Basic Education which commits the government to providing free, sufficient and quality sanitary pads to girls in school. I’d also like to urge all stakeholders to come together in fighting period poverty since periods aren’t just a girls’ issue, but everyone’s issue!.”



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