By Daniel Karanja, Programme Officer, Kenya Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Programme (KSHIP) and MHM Trainer
Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is not a new concept among communities and households in Kenya. However, there are different myths and misconceptions due to sociocultural as well as religious approaches in attempting to address it.
Our silence, mostly perpetrated by myths, misconceptions and taboos costs us the bright future we deserve.
I have recently taken part in the training of trainers on MHM in Kenya and it provided participants with the opportunity to gain knowledge on how to empower community members with information on MHM while further engaging actors and players in various socio-economic areas to champion MHM.
Boys and men have an equal stake in breaking the silence on menstruation, as well as girls and women.
To spread more awareness on MHM in schools and communities we need to integrate menstrual management education and hygiene in school-based clubs, prioritize MHM in budgets and tailor MHM messages for girls who have not started menstruating to empower them with information on how to handle the landmark of female puberty-menarche.
Promoting safe MHM practices includes: the provision of MHM-friendly facilities, practical ways of promoting reusable MHM products, ensuring hand washing before and after using an MHM product of choice as well as proper cleansing (i.e. from front to back). Innovation in embracing technology in management of safe and hygienic disposal of menstrual products is highly encouraged.
Linking MHM with other projects would go a long way in ensuring that aspects of sustainability including behaviour modification is addressed as well as increased numbers of community members, including persons with disability are reached with information on MHM.
Monitoring and evaluation in MHM is key because it encourages programme transparency and accountability: it promotes programme effectiveness, improvement, sharing and thus learning.
The solutions to issues related to MHM are within us. All we need to do is engage, embrace the principle of non-discrimination in addressing matters of WASH and – by extension – issues to do with MHM by ensuring prompt availability, affordability and accessibility of information and products to all.
Females have an integral role to play when it comes to addressing MHM. Since it’s a biological process that is natural, girls and women ought to take pride in it. It is this pride that will help provoke active and meaningful male participation as well.
We can almost conclude that the initiative of breaking the silence starts with girls and women — the epicentre of breaking the silence — but its continued success depends on male inclusion and participation. Let’s make our voices heard on menstruation!
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