The first Kenya Water Week was held in Nairobi from 20-25 November 2016, with the theme “From Aid to Trade”. WSSCC and its partners in Kenya participated in the week-long event demonstrating that not only water but also sanitation and hygiene are essential components in improving health, safety and dignity.
The head of the WSSCC delegation, Prof. Anna Tibaijuka, a current member of parliament in Tanzania, previous Chair of WSSCC and former Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, advocated during the opening session to make sanitation visible at the event.
(L-R) Prof. Tibaijuka (Head of WSSCC Delegation, Hon. Wamalwa (Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Water & Irrigation and Mr. Reynders (Belgium Deputy Prime Minister), Mr. Sigor (Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water & Irrigation)
A session in the MHM tent
Prof. Tibaijuka, Head of the WSSCC Delegation inviting Hon. Wamalwa, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Water & Irrigation and Mr. Reynders, Belgium Deputy Prime Minister, into the MHM tent to break the taboo around menstruation.
K-SHIP implementing partners exhibiting their work in Kenya
She gave a prominent place to sanitation and hygiene, referring to the unprecedented opportunity of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 6.2 and stressed on the need to focus on people in vulnerable situations, such as women and girls.
She also invited the private sector to engage in innovative ways to ensure sanitation is accessed by all, while looking out for the affordability of services.
As a response, the Minister of Water and Irrigation, the Hon. E. Wamalwa, who was the host of Kenya Water Week, promised that next year a Kenya Water and Sanitation week would be held. That same promise was reiterated by the Deputy President, Hon W. Ruto during the Gala dinner later that week.
WSSCC partners in Kenya joined forces in showcasing their work at the exhibition space. The Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)-supported Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (K-SHIP), executed by AMREF Health Africa Kenya Country Office, demonstrated the work of their implementing partners.
Displays from the flyers and materials centered around demonstrations of how implementing partners in the field across the 11 counties are making efforts to reach universal coverage in sanitation and hygiene interventions. Displays on technologies for addressing people living with disabilities were of particular interest.
Menstrual Hygiene Management at the forefront
The Menstrual Hygiene Management tent (MHM Lab), drew a lot of attention, where short awareness sessions on MHM were given by WSSCC trained facilitators.
The trainers addressed the MHM approach of breaking the silence on menstruation, menstrual management and safe disposal. The MHM tent did not only gather women in the safe space, but many men were attracted and joined the sessions. Of the 155 people who visited the lab, 69 of them were men who made the pledge to break the silence on menstruation.
WSSCC-supported participants were fully engaged the entire week either hosting and/or participating in different sessions, creating a platform to listen, learn and discuss sanitation and hygiene in Kenya.
Dr. Kepha Ombacho, Director of Public Health, in the Ministry of Health shared the progress and challenges of sanitation in Kenya. He highlighted the great strides made by closely working with partners in the “inter-sectoral coordinating mechanism”. This coordination platform meets on a quarterly and rotational basis in various counties in Kenya and has promoted joint sharing, learning and reporting, as well as a high sense of accountability in the sanitation sub-sector.
Dr. Ombacho emphasized the importance of integration and collaboration, as the way to achieve the SDGs. Working closely with the private sector has boosted the growth of sanitation as a business, however Dr. Ombacho indicated that this approach requires an increased sanitation marketing support to reach its full potential.
Daniel Kurao, chief of WASH programmes in Amref Kenya and the programme manager for the K-SHIP, pointed out that sanitation is a right in the Kenyan Constitution, however, awareness of this right is still at a low level. Mr Kurao was in particular encouraging more advocacy towards the urban authorities to address issues related to urban sanitation.
At the plenary hall, WSSCC hosted a session on “Investing in Hygiene and Menstrual Health”, which kicked off with a keynote of the First Lady of Kwale County, Mrs. Christine Mvurya.
As an MHM champion, she explained the multiple benefits of addressing MHM and how this taboo can be replaced with pride, dignity and wellbeing. She also shared the latest facts about how adolescent girls in Kenya deal with menstruation, for example, only 32% of rural schools have a private place for girls to change during menstruation and about two-thirds of women and girls in Kenya are unable to afford sanitary pads.
The second key-note speaker was Mrs. Patricia Mulongo, who has a hearing impairment. She shared her own story of how her impairment excluded her from receiving information and as a consequence left her ignorant regarding menstruation.
Mrs. Mulongo advocated for including people with disabilities when it comes to awareness on MHM. Having attended the WSSCC-organized training of trainers that took place in Kenya in August 2016, and as a certified trainer, she is now engaged in breaking the taboo on MHM among the hearing-impaired communities in Kenya.
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