Addressing menstrual poverty in Kenya is part of achieving the SDGs

  • 9 Oct 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Vidhi Patel

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a global commitment to creating a more equitable and sustainable world by 2030. In Kenya, as in many other countries, menstrual poverty is one pressing challenge that intersects with several SDGs. This multifaceted issue affects women’s and girls’ access to menstrual hygiene and their education, health, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation.

Menstrual poverty is a complex issue characterised by limited access to menstrual hygiene products, inadequate sanitation facilities, and social stigma surrounding menstruation. It affects millions of women and girls in Kenya, particularly those in rural and marginalised communities. This lack of access to menstrual hygiene products can lead to missed school days, reduced work productivity, and severe health risks.

Linking Menstrual Poverty to SDGs:

1.SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Menstrual poverty can lead to health issues, including infections and reproductive complications. Access to safe and hygienic menstrual products and education is crucial for women’s and girls’ health and well-being.

2. SDG 4: Quality Education

Menstrual poverty often leads to absenteeism among girls, affecting their education. Data from Kenya’s Ministry of Education shows that a girl is absent from school four days a month for up to six weeks of learning time in an academic year.

3. SDG 5: Gender Equality

Gender inequality is reinforced when menstruation is shrouded in stigma and taboos.  In 2019, a 14-year-old student committed suicide following an incident of period shaming. Empowering women and girls to manage their menstrual health with dignity is essential for gender equality.

4. SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Access to clean water and sanitation facilities is critical for proper menstrual hygiene management. Millions of young girls and women in Kenya lack access to essential feminine hygiene products, such as sanitary pads and tampons. Investments in these areas are crucial for achieving this goal.

Addressing Menstrual Poverty in Kenya and Calls for Policy Reforms. The Kenyan government has acknowledged the importance of addressing menstrual poverty and has incorporated it into its national development agenda. The struggle to afford menstrual products is a crisis that affects many Kenyan women and girls, particularly those living in low-income settings. It is one that nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba is working to end through the Sanitary Towels Provision bill, which seeks to end period poverty by making sanitary pads freely available to all school girls and women in prisons nationwide.  

The UNFPA in collaboration with Senator Orwoba and partners, joined in the launch of Glo’s Pad Bank, an initiative that seeks to collect sanitary pads to distribute freely to needy women. The event also served as a platform to garner support for the hygienic towels provision bill among legislators and members of the public.

Education and awareness are equally important in fighting menstrual poverty. NGOs and community-based organisations are actively raising awareness about menstrual hygiene, reducing stigma, and providing education on sustainable menstrual practices. Such an organisation is Together for Better, aiming to create solutions for effective menstrual health management through education, training and adequate information regarding Menstrual Health Hygiene. They effectively decimate and demystify the myths about menstrual health with informational education and stem the alarming growing numbers of early and teen pregnancies.

Addressing menstrual poverty is a matter of dignity and a pathway to achieving multiple SDGs. By empowering women and girls to manage their menstrual health effectively and with dignity, Kenya can make substantial progress toward SDGs related to health, education, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation. It is a testament to the interconnected nature of the SDGs and the potential for meaningful change when addressed comprehensively. Empowering women and girls through menstrual hygiene is a critical step toward a more equitable and sustainable future for all in Kenya and beyond.