Breaking silence and stigma of period poverty in Kenya

Part of Nkonde School students in Tharaka Nithi County which receives menstruation health products from BloomBells Charity. PHOTO/BloomBells.
  • Many girls lack access to sanitary products due to financial limitations, forcing them to miss school or resort to unhygienic solutions.
  • BloomBell Charity goes beyond providing resources by promoting open dialogue and empowering girls to embrace their bodies and menstrual cycles. 
  • The organisation also partners with schools and local organizations to create awareness and break the stigma around menstruation.

A knot of worry tightened in Joan’s stomach, and numbers swam before her eyes, as her teacher began the math class.

How could she focus when all she could think about was the familiar dread of leaking onto her wooden chair, a fear that had forced her to miss classes before – a consequence of period poverty that made her monthly cycle more than just an inconvenience.

At 13, Joan has already felt the burden of a reality most girls of her age wouldn’t understand. Affording menstrual products felt like a distant dream for her family.

In a recent interview with Scholar Media Africa, Joan’s voice trembled, not just with embarrassment, but with a mix of frustration and a hint of shame – a weight no teenager should have to carry because of a basic need.

“There are times when I have to resort to using old socks, rags or leaves, sometimes I miss school because I have nothing to manage my periods. It makes me feel like a lesser being, like I don’t belong,” Joan said during the interview.

Even though she joins the number of school-going girls struggling to overcome period poverty, a ray of hope lingers as BloomBells Charity, a non-governmental organisation committed to fostering menstrual wellness makes its entry to Kenya.

Obuya Comprehensive School students in Homa-Bay County receive sanitary towels and other health products from BloomBells Charity on March 28. PHOTO/BloomBells.

For a country where menstrual hygiene products remain elusive due to the struggling nature of families, this arrival sparks a glimmer of hope among many households.

Eamonn Maguire, Founder of BloomBells Charity, says girls must dare to dream of a future free from the indignity of makeshift solutions and missed opportunities.

“With a deep understanding of the barriers faced by girls in accessing menstrual hygiene products, BloomBells Charity pledges its support to empower communities and eradicate stigma and hardship associated with period poverty. We ensure that no girl is left behind due to lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources,” Mr. Maguire says.

Community Outreach

In Kenya’s central region, Tharaka Nithi County, BloomBells Charity embarked on a mission with profound implications, to reach out to remote and underserved communities.

As a commitment to address the scourge of period poverty, the team distributed sanitary towels, inner garments, and health education resources, as they sought to normalise menstruation, dispel myths and foster a culture of confidence and pride in menstrual health among young girls.

The urgency of BloomBells Charity’s mission was underscored by sobering statistics from AMREF International, revealing that a staggering 65% of girls and young mothers in Kenya lack access to sanitary towels.

The financial burden of menstrual products only compounds the issue, often forcing low-income families to make difficult choices between necessities and menstrual health. 

Speaking during the outreach at Nkonde Comprehensive School in Tharaka South Sub County, Ms Juster Kagendi, BloomBells Co-founder affirmed that, “Not only is BloomBells raising awareness about menstrual health but also providing tangible support to those in need. We are dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding menstruation and promoting access to hygiene essentials.”

Rukuriini Comprehensive School students listen attentively as Milka Meeni, BloomBells Charity staff and menstrual health expert takes them through menstrual health education. PHOTO/BloomBells.

Call to Action

Philomena Chepkirui, Board Member of BloomBells Charity, raised an urgent call for the government to address priority areas in the life of girl child.

Chepkirui insisted that the government must understand the uniqueness of girls to enable them to pursue their dreams without any obstacles.

“Period poverty contributes to gender inequality by limiting the opportunities and choices available to women and girls. It reinforces gender-based disparities in education, health and economic participation.

I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of period poverty on girls’ education and the overall struggle associated with it. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this issue any longer. Every girl deserves the opportunity to thrive, regardless of her menstrual cycle,” Chepkirui commented. 

Currently, the charity organization is spearheading a groundbreaking initiative to combat period poverty in Kenya by fostering community engagement and breaking the silence surrounding menstruation.

Through collaboration with community leaders, schools, and local organizations, it aims to create an environment of support and understanding around menstrual health.

The organization’s mission goes beyond merely sanitary pads. It seeks to dismantle the stigma and barriers that surround menstruation, promoting inclusivity and respect for all.

Amina Nyaga, a Board Member of BloomBells Charity, emphasized on the far-reaching implications of period poverty, noting how it affects women’s participation in work and community activities.

She asserts that addressing this issue is not just the provision of practical solutions but also about upholding human rights and fostering gender equality.

“There is an urgent need to redefine societal perceptions of menstruation, and no woman or girl should be disadvantaged by a natural biological process. BloomBells Charity believes the fight against period poverty is a fight for a future where every Kenyan woman or girl can thrive without constraints,” says Nyaga.

The organization’s bold approach signals a transformative shift in the conversation surrounding menstrual health and underscores the importance of collective action in addressing this pressing issue.

Education and Advocacy

The organization is not only focusing in Central Kenya. In Rachuonyo North Sub County, Milka Meeni, a renowned menstrual health expert, and a Board Member of BloomBells Charity, in an empowering health talk session at Obuya Comprehensive School, ignited a spark of confidence in young girls from grades 6 to 8.

Supported by BloomBells Charity, Meeni’s mission was clear: to equip girls with the knowledge and confidence to embrace their future fearlessly.

With fervour and expertise, she addressed the crucial topic of menstrual health, urging the girls to confront the changes in their bodies with confidence.

In a world where taboos still shroud discussions on menstrual health, Meeni’s bold approach resonated deeply with the girls.

Her message was clear: the time for hesitation and secrecy is over. By understanding their bodies and embracing their menstrual cycles, girls can navigate their futures with confidence and resilience.

Through the interactive and informative session, Meeni shattered myths and misconceptions surrounding menstruation, paving the way for open dialogue and empowerment. As the session ended, girls were armed not only with knowledge but with a newfound sense of self-assurance—a testament to the transformative power of education and advocacy.

Reacting to the role of BloomBells Charity in addressing period poverty in schools, James Aguko, Curriculum Support Officer (CSO), Rambira Zone, heaped praise on the initiative, confirming that many girls miss school because of menstruation concerns.

“This is a noble cause, and many girls in Rachuonyo North and Rambira Zone in particular are victims of period poverty. I request BloomBells Charity to extend their support to all the schools in Rambira Zone, since the government has a lot in its tray, and most families are struggling with putting food on the table,” Mr. Aguko appealed.

His sentiments were echoed by the Area Chief, Cosmas Odipo, who used the opportunity to plead with the community to support BloomBells Charity in Homa Bay County.

Caroline Odera, the deputy headteacher of Obuya Comprehensive School, shared her experience with period poverty, insisting parents have so much to do to prevent exposing their daughters to the hostile world of early marriage, and teenage pregnancies. She committed to support the activities of the charity organization for the benefit of the girl child.

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Obuya Comprehensive School in Homa Bay County is the latest addition to BloomBells Charity’s roster of supported schools. Joining eight others nationwide, the school will benefit from access to sanitary towels, inner garments, the construction of a toilet, and various health resources.

During the adoption event, Miyuga, Mawego Mixed, Oluti, and Samba Schools were also welcomed into the program. BloomBells Charity emphasizes sustainable impact through partnerships, offering workshops alongside essential resources.

Corporate giving and donations of goods or services are encouraged to aid in operations, from sanitary products to logistical support. This collaborative approach aims to ensure the success of such initiatives, including educational workshops and advocacy campaigns, benefitting schools and communities across the country.

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Mr. Misori holds a Bachelor's degree in Education Arts, English and English literature from Mount Kenya University. He is the author of the book ''Village Under Siege'', a book reviewer, and a science journalist passionate about environment, health, climate change, education and agriculture. His email address is misori.village@gmail.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. It is important that more partners come on board to help end period poverty in Kenya. So many girls and young mothers are struggling with period poverty. Thank you for the valuable input

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