By DAMA KALAMA
Health practitioners from Kilifi County are now demanding for a full implementation of the recently launched Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Policy so as to foster health and development agenda.
Kenya became the first nation to develop a standalone Menstrual Hygiene Policy through a multi-stakeholder consultative and inclusive process that was unveiled in May this year by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.
Zamara Foundation director Esther Kimani said is a need for Coastal counties to domesticate the policy considering prevailing social, economic, cultural and demographic contexts of women and girls.
“If you critically look at the policy, there is a need to domesticate it within Kilifi County so that it addresses some of the specific problems affecting girls in the region. By so doing we will do away with the stigmatization that comes along with the menstrual periods,” she added.
Kilifi County water and sanitation hygiene WASH coordinator Omar Sigomba says the policy will boost development of the girl child and do away with perennial misconceptions that have taken a toll on the youth generation.
Counties are also tasked with ensuring the provision of menstrual hygiene management MHM facilities, services and products in learning institutions, workplace and public spaces.
“We are having disposal challenges and as a county, we are keen to do sensitization forums to the girls on safe disposal of the waste. The county is also keen to demystify all myths and stigmatization that comes with the health challenges facing our girls,” he said.
Zamara Foundation, a woman organization, focusing on young women and girls has partnered with Dream Achievers Youth Organisation (DAYO) to ensure domestication of the policy within the county levels.
The Ministry of Health has maintained that the country’s first MHM policy and strategy will provide an opportunity for increased prioritization of its agenda in the country.
In the new policy, Counties are required to have a dedicated budgetary allocation for MHM activities including provision of affordable and easy access to healthcare for menstrual related issues.
The MHM Policy 2019-2023 launched by the Ministry also dictates that counties ensure safe disposal of menstrual waste by executing the guidelines and standards for the management of MHM waste.
The Health Ministry in 2016 commissioned a situation analysis study as a step towards developing the policy.
From the analysis, it was discovered that minimal attention is given to menstrual health and hygiene with adolescent girls and boys reporting that it is shameful to discuss menstruation.
“There is very little information on proper disposal systems. There is a need to address the attitude of men towards menstruation because there are very misleading misconceptions that come around with it,” said Florence Katana, a Kilifi resident.
The myths perpetuated by this silence and stigma results in shame and confusion, poor hygiene during the menstrual period, incidence of urinary tract and vaginal infections, absenteeism from school and work and a sense of poor self-worth that persists long after menstrual period.