Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for holistic solutions to challenges facing girls and women in the country.
The First Lady expressed the need for leaders to champion the entrenchment of the rights and dignity of the adolescent girls by ensuring they access basic services including sanitary products.
While speaking during the launch of the Menstrual Health Management Programme in Nairobi, Mrs. Margaret said ignoring menstrual hygiene needs is a violation of girls’ rights.
“We must remain committed to preserving the rights and dignity of our adolescent girls because ignoring their menstrual hygiene needs is a violation of their rights,” she said
The Menstrual Management programme is an initiative spearheaded by the County First Ladies Association with support from the Red Cross Society, the African Cotton Industries and Children Investment Fund Foundation.
The programme focuses on menstrual hygiene, adolescent sexual and reproductive health education, nutrition education, mentorship, life skills development and policy influence.
It also aims at complementing government intervention by implementing strategies that work to improve access to sanitation facilities, improve hygiene, adolescent sexual health awareness and address girls’ absence from school by incorporating a mentorship psycho-education and life component.
The Programme is also geared towards social and economic empowerment of one million girls and one million boys as leading lights in support of the initiative.
She said leaders need to find practical, holistic, cost effective solutions that would ensure even the least fortunate have access to clean and safe sanitary solutions.
“We need to find holistic solutions where girls and women have access to water supply, sanitation and good hygiene,” she added.
The First Lady said it was unfortunate that many girls drop out of school during the important stage of their development due to lack of sanitary products.
“It is sad to note that during the important stage of their development, many girls drop out of school while many others miss approximately 15 to 20 per cent of school time annually due lack of sanitary products,” she said.
She pointed out that lack of alternative solutions push menstruating girls out of school, temporarily and sometimes permanently, saying this has led many girls to fall prey to early pregnancies.
The First Lady said despite being an important aspect of reproductive health, many cultural barriers have continued to be an impediment to menstrual health management to thousands of women and girls.
She emphasized that Kenyans have a lot to do to eliminate the stigma, cultural and social barriers that infringe on safe health practices for women and girls.
“We must create environments and spaces where they (women and girls) can be protected from neglect and social exclusion merely due to biological cycles,” adds Mrs. Margaret.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohammed said 3 million girls of between ages 11 to 15 years are in dire need of sanitary towels.
She said during the past four financial years, the Government through the Ministry of Education allocated Kshs 400 million per year to support one million girls in high risky and poverty stricken areas with sanitary towels for a period of nine months annually.
The Chairperson of the County First Ladies Association, Mrs Nazi Kivutha said the programme, which will be rolled out in all 47 counties, would run for the next three years.
She said the programme, which would also reach out to boys would entail construction of toilets in schools to create a conducive learning environment for children.
Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso who spoke on behalf of Governors said all county governments would support the programme by donating Kshs 500,000 each towards the project through the Council of Governors.
Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Gullet called on all Kenyans to support noble initiatives such as the newly launched programme by giving practical solutions to challenges facing children.
Also in attendance were Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, his West Pokot counterpart John Lonyangapuo and 38 spouses of governors among others.