In Kenya alone, one million girls miss school because they do not have access to menstrual products.
The topic of period poverty is one that is not necessarily broached half as much as it ought to be. Especially considering the significant number of people who suffer under its merciless whim.
The fact that till this date, in the 21st century, the only country in the entire world that has taken a stride towards making menstrual products absolutely free for those who need them is Scotland as of the bill they passed on the 25th of November, 2020. Where are the rest of the countries? Why has it taken this long?
Records from late 2020 show that in Kenya alone, more than one million girls miss school because of their periods. Read that again, ONE MILLION!
That is an astounding number for no action to be taken on. Some of them miss school because they do not have the proper hygienic products to sustain them throughout the day, products like sanitary towels or tampons or menstrual cups,because said products are simply unaffordable to some.
Which begs the question, why are sanitary products sold? Why are people benefiting from such a process? It baffles me that condoms are given for free while sanitary towels are sold because as someone once said ; sex is a choice, menstruation isn’t.
Some may argue that the prices of these products have been reduced, I’d like to counter that by stating that someone who cannot afford a meal at the end of the day without intervention cannot afford sanitary products monthly, there shouldn’t be a reduction there should be a nullification.
There are people that live in extreme poverty who are not exempt from this biological function and jeopardize their health safety by resorting to unsanitary and dangerous means of coping with their period simply because they cannot afford the correct products, this makes their period a hindrance to various factors in their lives, from their education as they cannot go to school lest they risk extreme embarrassment, to their social life because they are forced to stay in seclusion for the same reason, to their health because some of the methods they resort to, like a certain case of a child using animal skin as a replacement for pads, are quite endangering.
The effectiveness of a menstrual product is not just gauged on its ability to collect blood and prevent it from overflowing into your clothes but on how safe it is for use.
As of now, the safest menstrual product to use would be a menstrual cup ; it is affordable ( relative concept) and most importantly reusable. But if something is entering your body then leaving and expected to reenter, it means caution and hygiene is of the utmost significance in its maintenance, and that is where the product loses marks. It needs to be meticulously cleaned, whereas some people barely have access to clean drinking water themselves.
The most common option for most people is pads, disposable pads , most pads, according to the manufacturers, are safe to wear for 8 hours. But we all know no one wears one for that long, especially not someone with heavy flow.
A packet of the cheapest pads contains 8 pads for roughly 50ksh. Most girls bleed for approximately 4 to seven days, so even if one was to change their pad after said 8 hours which is just unsanitary, the packet would only last for about three days, but for most people it’s less.
And in Kenya, over 65% of girls still cannot afford this. Over 37% of the general population lives on less than 134ksh a day ,where is the money for pads for a household of more than just one girl and multiple expenses of the least of which is school fees, food, water, electricity,among others, supposed to come from?
Let’s talk about how the companies that manufacture some of these products don’t give two shits about their consumers, to truly get into how inhumanly inconsiderate it is to make a business out of people’s suffering then proceed to disregard their health even as they continue to consume your product.
The brand “Always” famed worldwide for its menstrual products which are exceedingly popular in the country, so much so that some people refer to sanitary towels as “always “. Always is the highest selling brand of menstrual products both in the US, and in Kenya. The difference is, in the US, the pads are of high quality and safe, but when it comes to Kenya, the company has a wild disregard for the market .
As of five years ago Always was the most advertised and marketed brand in kenya. Accounting for over 65% of sales of menstrual products. But it wasn’t until 2020 that people started coming up and speaking about the harm their pads had caused them.
A Twitter thread emerged in the dead of the pandemic where one user complained about the pads burning her.
More people then participated and shared their gruesome experiences, putting the company under fire because some of them even claim they got rashes in their vulva from extended use of the pads.
One user even said she had endured the symptoms for so long that she thought that that was just what happened when you used pads. And I second her, from a personal point of view I have been subjected to the burning that comes after each bleeding session when using Always pads.
Even I thought that it was natural, but then I switched to Kotex pads and didn’t feel the burning, that’s when I knew it wasn’t. Kenyan users in the diaspora and even those who had been to other countries said that when they were there, the pads never burned them, so it’s only the pads in the Kenyan market that are tainted. The company did not respond to these claims, at least not on social media.
So not only are the products unaffordable, they’re also dangerous, wow! And they’re only reckless with third world countries because in developing countries, they don’t make such mistakes, wow!
In my humble opinion, capitalism has optimized an environment that enables people and corporations to profit immensely off of basic human needs.
I am of the opinion that countries should follow in the path of Scotland and make menstrual products free.
And more feminists should lobby for this change to be brought about because we all know it’s a man’s world and unless we speak up and fight , the boot on our necks will not be lifted out of free will.
And our suffering will continue to be an unfair opportunity for someone to generate wealth.