Kadzo, sits at the beach watching the waves rise and crush at her feet. The crabs walk to the distant left, and a part of her wishes that she could follow them to the ends of the horizon. A few weeks ago, she had a death scare. Or at least she thought it was, initially. She woke up to a mattress filled with blood, and upon further investigation, she realized that it was her blood. Her heart raced, as she wondered what was happening. Why it looked like she was bleeding to death in her bed.
Her mother, a fisherwoman, came from fishing and called Kadzo to wash the fish as she always did, but Kadzo would not move. Gravity and the flow of blood fastened her to her bed. After numerous threats, and exasperation from repeating herself while standing in the hot sun, Kadzo’s mother ventured into the house to find out what had gotten into her daughter and made her disobedient overnight.
She found Kadzo crying silently and staring at the blood on the sheets. She let out a little shriek, as this was not how she had expected her day to go when she rose before sunrise. Her baby, Kadzo, was now a woman. She was at a loss of words and didn’t know where to start, as she’d never broached the topic of ‘hedhi’ as she called it with her daughter.
Kadzo’s eyes locked with her mums, and she saw a sadness that was palpable, an image of her mama’s heart breaking. Kadzo’s mum got on her knees and embraced her daughter. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she looked for the words to explain what had just happened.
Menstruation is nothing to celebrate in the village. It is seen as a flaw in nature, as a result periods are only discussed on a need to know basis. Facts and myths are weaved together in the pep talk. Once a girl reaches her menarche, everything changes, and she is viewed as a woman, old enough to be married and bear children. For the girls, it is beginning of the end of their dreams.
Communal beliefs about menstruation dictate how girls and women view themselves and are viewed by others when they are menstruating. The common narrative is that a woman is unclean and therefore unable to go on with life as usual.
65% of girls and women in Kenya do not have access to menstrual hygiene products, this means that they are forced to improvise and use materials such as newspaper, old rags, and mattresses. Some girls and women are forced to have transactional sex so that they can buy sanitary towels. Psychologically, their self-esteem and confidence are affected. Even though they have hygiene products, they may be scared of soiling themselves. Economically, they may lose income if they are unable to go to work due to pain, cultural taboos or lack of products.
Factual information is sparse, this is because there is no comprehensive menstrual health education offered to girls and women. Menstrual health education helps girls and women to understand their bodies, know more about the disposable and safe reusable products, know the warning signs to look out for and learn period hacks.