Practicing a proper menstrual hygiene management has always been a struggle for women and girls living close to the poverty line in Kenya. However, the current pandemic has made the situation even worse. Managing their period safely and with dignity seems to be a woman´s and girl´s fundamental right – but how does Covid-19 additionally prevent this from happening?
Washing hands regularly was found to be an effective way to delay the spread of the virus – but the increased use of the limited resource water decreases its availability for necessary practices during menstruation. These practices, such as the cleaning of reusable menstrual products, are usually aimed at preventing bacterial infection – and can currently be performed less often, putting women at increased risk of related infections.
Financial losses – Missing money for period products
Economic and financial pressure is a common side effect of the measures taken during the pandemic. Restrictions on freedom of movement and the closures of shops and businesses leads to many people not being able to go to work or not being able to work at all. In addition, disrupted supply chains raise the selling price of goods, making them even less affordable. The resulting heavy financial difficulties make hygiene products, which are often too expensive anyway, unaffordable and force families to prioritize vital products such as food.
Closures of schools with devastating consequences
But not only shops are shut down – many schools have also been remaining their doors closed for months. Schools usually function as one of the places to be educated about menstrual hygiene, just like community centers and similar touchpoints of education. All those were mainly closed in the past months due to the pandemic, and as talking about menstruation is often even at home considered to be a taboo, many girls lack the opportunity to receive information. But the closure of schools has another side effect: The government and some non-governmental organizations usually provide free pads for girls in need at schools. So, by closing those, the opportunity to get sanitary pads was also denied for many girls without financial reserves.
Many women and girls are left with no choice but using alternatives such as pieces of clothes, toilet paper or anything found that is slightly usable. But mostly these alternatives are unclean and unhygienic – and sometimes lead to bacteria growth, and reproductive and urinal infections.
Taking action by connecting opportunities
Seeing all these challenges, Making More Health (MMH) has already taken steps to support women in these times of crisis. At Lake Victoria, women connected to our NGO partner WAWA manufacture reusable sanitary pads. MMH ordered 1800 of those pads to be handed out to women in our project areas in Webuye and Eldoret, and thereby created a win-win situation by ensuring an income for the producing women and giving women in our project areas the opportunity to a healthier menstrual hygiene management.