Period Poverty: A Global Challenge, Local Solutions


Lugari Community Resource Centre, in collaboration with Days for Girls Kenya (DfGK), envisions a world where menstruation poses no obstacle.

A package of reusable sanitary pads is displayed by Khayange Wasike of the Lugari Community Resource Centre./George Misati

The stark reality that 65% of women and girls in Kenya cannot afford sanitary pads is deeply troubling. This essential item is not only crucial for maintaining hygiene and preventing infections during menstruation but also plays a pivotal role in addressing school absenteeism among adolescent girls and curbing early pregnancies driven by desperate measures to acquire pads.

The root cause of period poverty lies in a complex web of factors, including income disparities, gender inequality, cultural stigmas, and a lack of understanding about menstruation. Additionally, the use of outdoor facilities due to the absence of in-home plumbing compromises the privacy and security of some females.

Period poverty encapsulates the struggles faced by many low-income women and girls in affording menstrual products, leading to increased economic vulnerability. Shockingly, up to 70% of women and girls grapple with significant challenges in managing their menstruation effectively.

Cultural shame surrounding menstruation exacerbates the problem, deterring girls from attending school and hindering women from working. The lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, proper toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management further compounds the challenges faced by women and girls.

In response to the global issue of period poverty, remarkable organizations such as Lugari Community Resource Centre have taken steps to be part of the solution. They address the menstrual health needs of women and girls in developing countries like Kenya by producing reusable and washable menstrual pads, lasting two to three years.

The  COVID-19 pandemic  shed light on the fact that periods do not halt during crises, emphasizing the negative impact on human rights when women and girls cannot manage their menstruation with dignity. The vulnerability increases during emergencies and wars, underscoring the intersectionality of menstrual health and human rights.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is intricately linked to period poverty, with both physical and psychological dimensions. The deliberate denial of dignity and access to basic services, including menstrual health management, perpetuates the cycle of violence. In schools with inadequate facilities and a lack of menstrual products, fear of embarrassment and harassment by male peers contributes to reduced participation.

The economic burden of menstrual products, often borne by men, can lead to conflicts. To address this, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KeBS) published the reusable sanitary towel standard (KS 2925:2020) in December 2020, providing consumers with confidence in an affordable and longer-lasting alternative.

Lugari Community Resource Centre, in collaboration with Days for Girls Kenya (DfGK), envisions a world where menstruation poses no obstacle. They strive to eliminate the stigma and limitations associated with menstruation, empowering women and girls to pursue improved health, education, and livelihoods.

Khayanga Wasike’s life journey is a testament to the transformative power of individual initiative. Motivated by her own experience of period poverty, she founded Days for Girls Lugari in 2017, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing reusable sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene education. These pads, more than a practical solution, symbolize empowerment and dignity, offering comfort, affordability, and durability.

A display of reusable pads at the Lugari Community Centre./George Misati

The impact of Wasike’s work is evident in the testimonials of countless girls who have benefited from her initiative. Caren Muhonja reflects on the increased comfort and reduced financial burden, recognizing the potential to address school absenteeism. Alex expresses support, acknowledging the positive impact on his daughters’ well-being. Clarion Wanjiru highlights the cost-effectiveness of reusable pads, enabling uninterrupted school attendance. Irene Ludenyu shares her experience of overcoming the challenges of period poverty, emphasizing increased academic success.

Wasike’s vision extends beyond immediate solutions. She aspires to expand the reach of Days for Girls Lugari, increase production of reusable pads, and encourage widespread adoption to challenge the reliance on disposable options.

Khayanga Wasike’s story serves as a powerful reminder that individuals, even with limited resources, can make a significant difference in their communities. Her unwavering commitment to menstrual equity inspires others to strive for a world where every girl has the opportunity to reach her full potential.

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