Wrap Up: Menstrual Health Inclusion Conference, February 2020 (Nairobi, Kenya)
Guest post by Florence Akara of Femme International
Saturday, February 8th kicked off a monthly series of conversations aimed at including everyone’s voice in the fight for menstrual equity in Kenya. The series launch was hosted in Nairobi by Janet Mbugua, a menstrual health activist and author of a collection of period experience stories, and perspectives titled “My First Time”. The conference provided a forum for cross-sector players including members of the public, government, civil society, and corporates to share, learn and brainstorm what more ought to be done in terms of Intervention, to end period poverty.
Janet believes that the voices of the differently-abled, religious and cultural backgrounds, need amplification because they are often left behind during the creation of policies, and even product design!
We heard this in one very touching testimony by Lucy*, who is differently-abled. Lucy had told a story of a mortifying experience she had once when the menstrual materials she was using fell out of her uniform and onto the ground, due to the way she walks. The next day and every morning after, however impractical, she tucked her pieces of fabric to her underwear to prevent a repeat incident.
Lucy felt that there is a dire need for manufacturers to factor in the comfort, user-friendliness and adhesives used on products for those that are differently-abled including putting Braille on products so that visually impaired people can select products for themselves.
Menstrual stigma and taboos were issues raised by almost every speaker or panellist as challenges holding us back from achieving menstrual equity. A suggested solution was to include men in the conversation. One panellist, Neville Okwaro who has been active in the WASH sector as a MHM trainer for over 9 years, commended his fellow men in attendance but noted that there is still more to be done to help men understand the vitality of their support, for their sisters, mothers, and wives who equally suffer these challenges. He added comically that men are a product of a missed period and therefore, periods should matter because, without the menstrual cycle, conception would not be possible.
The second leg of the series is scheduled to be held next month, in Mombasa county. You can check out the event stories, updates and feedback from the following hashtags #MHMconferenceKE #Myfirsstories.
About the author:
Florence Akara is Femme International’s Executive Director.