Covid-19 threatens to roll back gains made so far in managing women’s menstrual health, Amref Health Africa Group Director of Programmes Mette Kinoti has said.
Speaking in Nairobi while receiving a donation of 16,000 sanitary pads from Proctor and Gamble last week, Ms Kinoti said the pandemic had reduced families’ income in rural areas and informal settlements.
“Families in the informal sector and rural areas depend on the jua kali sector where the average income ranges between Sh200 to 400. Many have lost jobs due to the pandemic, and it’s difficult for the women to buy items like sanitary pads, menstrual cups or tampons,” said Ms Kinoti.
The pads were donated to Amref Health Africa by Proctor and Gamble. They will be distributed to 5,333 girls in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kilifi and Samburu counties, with each girl getting three packets.
Noting that Samburu County was not a Covid-19 hot spot, Ms Kinoti said the region was selected because of the “increased vulnerability of women and girls.
“Women and girls in Samburu struggle to access sanitary pads. The pandemic has made their situation more difficult,” she said.
Ms Kinoti said Amref is committed to support the government’s efforts to end the threat of Covid-19.
“We are working with community members to ensure the right messages on Covid-19 are passed to the public. We are also committed to ensuring girls in informal settlements and rural areas within the targeted counties, are empowered with information and materials to meet their menstrual health needs,” added Ms Kinoti.
Proctor and Gamble Commercial Director Mr Simon Mwangi, said the donation was part of the firm’s efforts to support the fight against Covid-19.
“We will do what we can to fight the pandemic, and that includes giving menstrual health items to the vulnerable sectors of society,” said Mr Mwangi.
Speaking at the event, Evelyn Karijo the head of Amref's Youth in Action wing, said the donation would address the needs of the economically disadvantaged women and girls.
Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (Unicef), shows there are 1.8 billion women and girls of reproductive age in the world.
Out of these, at least 500 million lack adequate facilities to manage their menstrual or monthly periods.
Menstrual Hygiene Day, a global advocacy platform for non-governmental organisations and government agencies, estimates that 65 per cent of women and girls in Kenya cannot afford to regularly buy sanitary pads.
SEX FOR PADS
Ms Edittar Ochieng, who heads the Kibra-based Feminist Centre, said the pandemic had affected the teenagers’ access to menstrual hygiene materials, which they enjoyed to a limited level while in school.
“In an average Kibra home where a teenager gets pads through the school program, the mother will use the pads, leaving the teenager to her own devices. Teamwork between the government and stakeholders in the sector is needed to ensure get them,” said Ms Ochieng.
She said girls in the large slum would, sometimes, have sex for as little as Sh40 to buy essentials like sanitary pads.
Ms Yamin Mohammed, director of Superb, a community-based organisation (CBO) in Kibra, said the pandemic had led to increased cases of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as transactional sex between teens and older men.
“Some unscrupulous men have taken advantage of the teenagers who can no longer afford the pads to offer the cash to buy them in exchange for sex. Others are being beaten at home when they ask their fathers to buy the items for them,” she said.