Drastic Measures

May 28th is International Women’s Health Day and also Menstrual Hygiene Day. To celebrate this day the KMET team, along with other organizations teamed up to host about a 40 minute walk holding various posters and signs to raise awareness about women’s health, particularly maternal death. We took up the entire road, and even had a marching band behind us. I was worried we might get hit by an angry truck driver as we marched onwards.

The huge banner pictured states, “We refuse the deaths of women through child birth.” In the year of 2015 alone there were about 56 female deaths due to birthing complications Once the walk was finished, there was a program that featured educational skits about the importance of women giving birth in hospitals because so many women die from hemorrhaging or other birthing complications which can be easily fixed with proper medical attention and care. Along with informational skits, the mobile health clinic was also present and treated many patients over the span of about 4 hours.

Towards the end of the program, about 4 or 5 girls were given their own pack of pads, consisting of about 20-24 Always pads. That day, I learned that many girls will have sex with older men because he will offer her sanitary napkins in exchange, which is another reason for the high rate of teenage pregnancies in Kisumu. I was extremely distraught over this fact, it made me very sad that girls have to go through such drastic measures for proper menstrual hygiene. Even though pads were donated to a few girls, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen after they run out? Would these girls go back to skipping school during their time of the month? Would they go back to the drastic options of selling their bodies in exchange for sanitary napkins?

In my opinion, it is a basic human right that everyone should have access to a primary education. If menstruation wasn’t so stigmatized, maybe girls would have better access to these necessary products and not have to miss out on school. KMET sells reusable pads, but again, many girls do not have the money or access to buy these products.This is not just a problem in Kenya, but all across the world. Girls can’t afford to miss days of school each month. Education and empowerment are both essential for girls to escape poverty and support themselves later on in life. I will continue to ponder about this issue and ask KMET staff more questions about possible and sustainable solutions.

Aubrey Gedeon ’17
Kisumu, Kenya