5/28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day
Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) is a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to break the silence, raise awareness and change negative social norms around Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).
Launched in 2014, MHDay falls on 5/28 every year representing the 5 days of menstruation in the 28-day cycle, which is the average female cycle.
Through this collective effort, MH Day raises global expectations that all women and girls—no matter where they live—experience menstruation without shame, and with access to education, sanitary products and WASH facilities.
Adolescence is a vulnerable time for girls around the world. In Kenya risks to adolescent girls include abuse, forced early marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and unintended pregnancy. Yet, there is no mandatory menstrual and reproductive health education, leaving girls with no knowledge of their bodies and rights.
Further compounding the problem, 65% of girls do no have access to sanitary products. When families are deciding between food and hygiene products, girls' needs are left unmet.
Depriving adolescent girls of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), also known as #PeriodPoverty, is directly linked to missed school days, with girls averaging over 4 missed days of school every month because they do not have the tools they need to manage their periods.
Even more alarming, a recent study showed that 1 in 10 girls living in the Nairobi slums have engaged in transactional sex in order to purchase MH products. It's no surprise then that Kenyan girls drop out of school at a higher rater than boys beginning at puberty, and that adolescent Kenyan girls are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 2/3 of new infections.
But, there is a solution to #EndPeriodPoverty!
In 2014, Kenya Works introduced the Makini Pad Initiative to address both the product and MHM educational needs of Kenyan girls. Our solution is an environmentally friendly reusable pad kit that lasts a girl a year or longer. We chose a reusable pad system to ensure that girls always have safe, reliable protection, and to ensure that girls' needs are met even in locations without flush toilets or disposal facilities for sanitary products. Kenya does not yet have systematic waste management, so in addition to being a shameful experience for girls to figure out disposal, it is also a larger issue for the country.
In conjunction with the Makini Pad product delivery, the Kenya Works social work team also arrives to facilitate a conversation with girls, focused on empowerment and strategies for managing adolescence and young adulthood safely by understanding their bodies and their rights; and by ensuring that the girls understand that pregnancy, HIV/Aids and missed school can stop their futures before they even begin. Teachers and other supportive adults are provided educational materials and guidance they have formally agreed to as part of the contract. Younger students are often present as well, including both boys and girls, helping to normalize the topic of periods as a natural biological function. The girls are also trained on the care and use of the product. Then the purses are distributed with 2 pairs of panties and the girls have an opportunity to talk with friends, ask questions of the social work team and generally engage in a supportive environment.
Makini Pads are more than a sustainable solution to #EndPeriodPoverty. The Makini Pad Initiative is a social enterprise based on the campus of Kenya Works' strategic partner, Vicodec, which serves the Ongata Rongai community as a primary school, feeding center and vocational training center. The Makini Pads production team is primarily women graduates of the dress-making program, currently providing regular employment to a team of 34.
By the end of 2018, 50,000 pad purses had been distributed, with another 25,000 in progress in 2019. The pads, panties and education distributions are funded by Kenya Works donors, and the pad kits are also available for purchase by NGOs wishing to make their own distributions.
In addition to the Makini Pad Initiative, Kenya Works also builds support for girls at the community level through the Kenya Works Community Works program. KWCW are 4-day workshops that focus on knowledge and behavior change interventions to reframe gender norms at the community level. The goal is to provide strategies for replacing harmful practices with positive practices and parenting addressing the issues of gender-based violence, FGM and early marriage.