ADVANCING MENSTRUAL HEALTH EQUITY

Menstruation is a phenomenon unique to the females. The onset of menstruation is one of the most important changes occurring among the girls during the adolescent years. The first menstruation occurs between 11 and 15 years with a mean of 13 years. About 1.8 billion persons suffer monthly periods, spanning over girls, women, transgender men, and non-binary people every month. Shockingly, millions of them lack the access to proper menstrual hygiene management, as highlighted by UNICEF. The problem is acute in regions like Africa, where access to clean sanitary materials remains a major challenge.

The statistics are alarming, especially in a continent with most of the developing nations: Africa. In the entire continent, 12.3 to 75 percent of the girls and women face challenges in accessing or paying for clean sanitary materials. They therefore end up using unworthy alternatives such as old clothes, cotton wool, or even toilet paper. UNICEF emphasizes that such a situation directly impacts education as 10% of school going girls are unable to attend classes when they are menstruating.

Bringing the focus to Kenya, a study done in 2015 found that affording sanitary pads was a struggle for 65% of the women and girls in their lives. The impacts of it are deep and widespread. Contributing factors to this crisis are inadequate access to clean water, lack of effective absorbents, and cultural taboos around menstruation.

Poor menstrual hygiene has bad repercussions. In addition to discomfort, it leads to infections of the reproductive tract and urogenital infections in girls and women. In a broader perspective, this thus results in a cycle of inequality that is limited to education and economic opportunities and, subsequently, self-esteem and general well-being.

On the other hand, proper menstrual health promotes some of the best gains there could ever be. It upholds dignity, builds confidence, and ensures excellent sexual and reproductive health. Recognizing the need for such issues to be handled urgently, organizations like the Darren Hart Foundation have not shied away from making an impact.

On the other hand, the Darren Hart Foundation has been at the forefront of such advocacy to ensure that menstrual health is put at the center of this conversation. They distribute sanitary pads to such communities through initiatives, such as pad drives, and also educate them on menstrual health and hygiene practices. Their efforts are to spread out in schools and universities so that anyone menstruating can have the right resources they need to really go out there and thrive.

In closer approximation to Menstrual Hygiene Day, on the 25th of the month, the Darren Hart Foundation assures continued support to the vulnerable. In Mukuru Kwa Njenga, one of the most adversely affected slums in Nairobi Kenya, the foundation will distribute sanitary pads to women and girls who were affected by the flood disaster. The objective will not be limited to the present period of hardship but also to equip the women and girls with knowledge and resources for long-term menstrual health. In conclusion, inequities in menstrual health are very much an issue of collective action. We would like to urge all people to support such initiatives as the Darren Hart Foundation through donations, advocacy, and volunteering. Let us join hands in the struggle for the dignity of all, and to make sure that menstruation is not the cause of one lacking access to education, opportunity, or well-being.

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