How Period poverty rules in the Pastoralist arid north

education

The menstrual cycle is a taboo topic shrouded in secrecy in the pastoralist regions, though natural, it sometimes triggers humiliation and stigma.

The adolescent girls in these arid pastoralist nomadic regions struggle to stay in school through their menses.

In fact, many girls miss school during such periods while some end up dropping out of school in the unfortunate event of schoolmates spotting a red spot on their clothes.

Being kept in private secrecy, shunned, and surrounded by mystery men and boys have always either been left out or kept themselves off the menses discussion.

According to Habiba Aden deputy head teacher of Jaribu Primary in Garissa, in counties like Tana River and Garissa, it’s a taboo for females to talk to males about menstrual cycles like asking for sanitary towels.

‘’ Regarded as shameful and unwomanly, it’s even forbidden for wives to talk about such issues with their husbands,’’ she lamented.

Noting that with extreme poverty and a little slice bits of ignorance and living in the past females use unhygienic methods in managing their menses.

She says for donkeys of years women have been struggling with their menses.

‘’It isn’t strange discovering the female folk have used pieces of mattresses, pieces of clothes and cow dung to block the flow,’’ sadly related Habiba.

He added that the worst affected are girls in the rural and nomadic pastoralist regions in Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, and Tana River Counties.

In some of these counties, girls dig holes in the soft sandy grounds and sit on them for three to four hours daily between three to five days to speed up the monthly cycles.

In other words, such girls if in school lose about a week of school time every month.

If out of school the same amount of time of domestic hours is lost warming the sandy soil.

‘’In most cases in some of these bone dry poverty-stricken counties, lack of sanitary towels lead the girls to seek alternative ways including gifting sexual favours to get the hygienic pads products,’’ said Habiba.

She added that such experiments could end in unwanted pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

She regrets that despite secular education penetrating these once marginalized areas early marriage is still prevalent as rich old men are eager to marry school-age girls to ignite their limp libido.

Habiba observes the biting drought and high cost of living, amidst stinking poverty and improvised livelihood in the arid zone even some wives have to walk the same path their daughters walk to get hygienic sanitary pads.

In the same vein, Deputy Headteacher of Tetu primary school Harira Ali Abdile says it’s only the girl child who has been in the positive spotlight.

“There has been a loud silence on the boy child who has been hugely left out in terms of being educated on the crucial menstrual phase,’’ noted Harira.

“Since the boy child ends up teasing and bullying the girls during the menses series many a schoolgirl opt to stay at home during such days,’’ noted Habiba.

She laments the boys neither, understand nor know, what these normal discharges are and are thus a natural process.

“This is so because we have kept the issue as a shameful ceremony belonging to the girl folk alone,’’ she noted saying, the boy sees it as the girls’ problem.

‘’So to speak, since it isn’t a sole challenge for a girl child alone we’ve to tie our legs together in seeking lasting solutions.

According to Harira, besides tying legs together in walking the talk, we have to join hands with several bodies to look for means and ways of solving the eons challenges of monthlies,’’ concluded Harira.

By Amoto Ndiewo

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Education News - Newspaper Vol 281