While several women and girls across the world face challenges managing their menstrual health and hygiene, girls living in low-income households are disproportionately affected. The challenges are higher and the repercussions more severe as they are less likely to have access to information on menstrual health or sanitary products because of their economic circumstances.
For example, research indicates that 65% of women in Kenya are unable to afford menstrual hygiene products and are often pushed to engage in transactional sex to acquire the necessary products. While engaging in transactional sex, because of their lack of agency, women and girls are often unable to negotiate for safe sex and end up suffering other reproductive health challenges, including risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and other STIs.
In sub-Saharan Africa, many girls will miss 20% of their school year; some may drop out of school altogether. This condemns these women and girls to a cycle of poverty, reducing their participation in economic development and decreasing their health and social outcomes.
Programs that provide menstrual hygiene products
While some countries such as Kenya have programs that offer free sanitary products in public schools to ensure that the levels of absenteeism reduce, nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders have had to step in to offer further support.
The different stakeholders have agitated for reduced costs of sanitary products and development and implementation of menstrual health management policies. These are necessary interventions; however, to be more targeted and effective, it is prudent to have menstrual health management conversations with girls at the menarche stage or while in schools to ensure that they get the necessary and accurate information at an early stage.
Because of the “taboo” nature of menstruation, households will not have conversations around menstruation—what it is, when to expect it or how to manage it.