‘Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere’ was the slogan for the 2016 celebration of World Menstrual Hygiene Day, held each year on the 28th May. It is aimed at breaking taboos and raising awareness about the importance of good menstrual hygiene management for women and adolescent girls worldwide.
Lack of sanitary pads is a common concern for girls and women living in poverty in developing nations. In dire circumstances, they are forced to improvise by using rags, tissue, leaves and other unhygienic materials, or vulnerable girls are conned into sexual relationships in exchange for feminine hygiene products. These humiliating practices can lead to infections and unwanted pregnancy.
Research has also shown that a lack of sanitary pads is the main cause of school absenteeism for teenage girls in rural, poor areas in Kenya. A collaborative study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), The Girl Child Network (GCN) and Human Relations Trust (HRT) shows that one in every ten girls in Africa misses school and eventually drops out altogether due to the shame and stigmatization they face from their peers regarding feminine issues.
‘Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere’, World Menstrual Hygiene Day flyer
Msharinyi Primary School was the venue of the celebrations this year in Taita Taveta County, Kenya, and was attended by three school groups, Maasai elders and villagers from the local area, and several community organizations including community health volunteers and women’s groups from the local towns of Sagalla and Mackinnon. About 200 people (75% girls and women) attended in total.
Right, Emily Mwawasi, Wildlife Works Community Relations Officer, at the event
Wildlife Works is committed to women’s empowerment, education and health and runs a variety of programs that work towards these aims within our project communities. In 2014, our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya began a program of making affordable, reusable sanitary towels from cotton scraps from our eco-factory to help those who couldn’t afford disposable sanitary towels.
We also started a training program at schools around our project area on Saturdays to teach young girls and mothers how to make these eco-friendly sanitary pads out of scraps that we supply. Through this program, we have taught and provided pads to around 350 local girls and women. Emily Mwawasi, Wildlife Works Community Relations Officer, was one of the special guests who spoke at the World Menstrual Hygiene Day event, highlighting that menstrual hygiene is critical for keeping girls in school and preventing unnecessary absences.
Demonstrations of reusable sanitary towels made from fabric scraps
The County Government, Kenya Red Cross and Ministry of Health jointly hosted the event. It included entertainment, speeches and demonstrations from representatives from local and county government, local schools and organizations working in the community, like Wildlife Works. Free samples of sanitary towels were also given out. Priscilla Mwangeka, former Mayor of Voi who was representing the Governor’s wife Hope Mrutu, commented, “I strongly believe that this day will trigger a positive discussion on challenges related to menstruation and bring confidence and a sense of belonging to our women and adolescent girls.”
Msharinyi Primary School Teacher demonstrating good person hygiene to his student
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Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), project development and management company with an effective approach to applying innovative market based solutions to the conservation of biodiversity. REDD+ was originated by the United Nations (UN) to help stop the destruction of the world’s forests.
Over a 15 year history Wildlife Works established a successful model that uses the emerging marketplace for REDD+ Carbon Offsets to protect threatened forests, wildlife, and communities.
The company helps local landowners in the developing world monetize their forest and biodiversity assets whether they are governments, communities, ownership groups, or private individuals.