Economic disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have forced girls to trade sex for food and sanitary towels.
During a webinar held on last week to discuss the implications of Covid-19 on Menstrual Hygiene organised byCentre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), it was revealed that girls in Nyanza region were especially susceptible to transactional sex.
Rotary International Representative to United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Dr Josephine Ojiambo said girls in Nyando were engaging in sex in exchange for food and money to buy pads.
The same is replicated in Migori and Kisumu as was revealed by Practical Action-East Africa’s Regional Director Farida Aliwa.
Ms Aliwa said weakening of women’s economic muscles has diminished their power to negotiate for menstrual products budgetary allocations in the households.
“Women’s capacity to make decisions on the distribution of the limited resources has been restricted because they have lost their incomes. And so leaves the question of whether menstrual hygiene products will be a priority,” she said.
In Kilifi, men are brushing off discussions on menstrual hygiene and products as they consider the subject a taboo.
Ms Laura Wawuda, a women’s rights activist in Kilifi said: “They don’t consider menstrual products as special needs. To them,it is a taboo.”
To address the complexities related with the menstrual hygiene matters, CREAW Program Development Manager Angelina Cikanda advocated for continues awareness to change locals’ attitude.
She said humanitarian aid that excludes sanitary towels fails to adequately meet its goals of mininising risks the affected individuals face, women and girls being the majority.
“We must ensure the packages we distribute take into account the menstrual needs of girls and women,” she said.
In Dr Ojiambo’s view, women and girls in rural and informal settlements cannot fully enjoy their menstrual hygiene rights unless there is a continuous supply of water.
She called for more investments in manufacturing of reusable pads and disposable menstrual materials.
“This will increase the supply (of menstrual products) at the household level and reduce expenditures on the products,” she said.
The activists recommended zero-rating production of menstrual products as a long-term solution to easing women and girls’ access to the commodities.