Fighting Menstrual Shame In Kenya
(Trigger Warning: this post discusses suicide and self-harm)
On September 6th, 2020, Days for Girls Bomet Enterprise organized an event to commemorate the life of 14-year-old Jackline Chepngeno, a local student who was driven to suicide by menstrual shaming last fall.
Jackline was a Grade 6 student at Kapyangek Primary School when her very first period arrived unexpectedly during class. Without any period products at her disposal, she bled through her clothes and was utterly humiliated. Worst of all, she had no idea what was happening to her body.
Distracted and distraught by the arrival of her menses, Jackline looked to her (female) teacher for guidance and reassurance. But the woman, who should have been her savior, instead shamed Jackline in front of the entire class. She allegedly called her "dirty" and kicked her outside.
That's when Jackeline walked home, trying desperately to cover her stained clothing. She walked all the way to the nearest river and hung herself with a Leso.
Jackline's heartbreaking story illustrates the integral role that menstrual health and dignity play in building a more equal future for all girls -- and why we must draw a line against menstrual shaming in order to get there. That's why DfG Bomet County Enterprise leaders, like Anita Byegone, have pledged to raise their voices to eradicate menstrual shaming once and for all.
“I pledge to openly talk about menstruation and the plight of period poverty in Kenya," she says. "No girl should start her period without accurate education and adequate sanitary products. No parent should feel ashamed to talk about menstruation with their adolescent children.“
The Bomet County commemoration event drew 750 people from across the region, including teachers, students, parents, NGO partners and government officials. Enterprise leaders spoke passionately about the importance of menstrual health education within the community, conducted Ambassador of Women's Health classes and distributed DfG Kits.
By taking a stand against menstrual shaming, DfG Enterprise leaders are shaping a new precedent in Kenya: one where no girl is driven to despair or self-harm because of her period. So that girls just like Jackline can feel confident, joyful and safe in their journey into womanhood - and are able to take their place in our equal future.