For a long time, the topics and discussion on menstruation and its management have been shut down by the cultural belief and misunderstanding. This has caused women and girls to experience shame, neglect, stigma, and even lacking a sense of belonging to the community. The psychological effects of failure to understand menstruation have long side effects on the girls’ education. This includes absenteeism in school that leads to poor performance, neglect by friends and peers from the opposite gender leading to stigmatization. Eventually, it has also led to incomplete education due to early school dropout, as a result, the education of the girl child has been therefore compromised.
Girls and women in most of the pastoral communities have been using a variety of materials to catch the menstrual blood. In the past, women have been using old rags and mattress pieces which posed a risk to them due to the cleanliness of the material. The materials used could not sustain the blood and therefore women could still suffer in public. Nowadays, there are varieties of materials that can be used by women during their menstrual cycle. This includes disposable pads, reusable pads, tampons, and menstrual cups.
Since 86% of the Maasai Mara population does not have access to toilets, disposable pads create a lot of waste that goes to the landfill much of it is non-biodegradable. They also create pollution of the land and water when thrown along the rivers where people fetch water. Besides environmental pollution, the disposable pads when thrown into toilets contributes to a high rate of toilets being filled up, this becomes too expensive for them to empty the latrines.
To avoid environmental pollution and extra cost, there is a need to switch to reusable pads and eco-friendly menstrual cups. This will help to reduce the implications for human health, land, air, water, and groundwater pollution.
The Maa Trust has been researching to find out how they can support girls and women in Maasai Mara during their menstruation period while conserving the environment. Fifteen girls from Talek Secondary and fifteen women from Olare Orok village have been used to test the convenience and comfort of the reusable sanitary pads. Both girls and women were sampled randomly without considering age and form. The main aim of the piloting was to compare the disposable pads that they have been using and the reusable pads to which was the first time for 99% of the girls and women to see.
According to the results that were collected two months after the time of issuing, all the girls reported having used the pads at least once either during the school holiday or when they are in the session. All the girls & women reported the reusable pads are comfortable, economical, and convenient to use.
From this survey, The Maa Trust suggests that to avoid environmental pollution and extra cost, there is a need to switch to reusable pads and eco-friendly menstrual cups.
To make reusable pads more affordable and sustainable, The Maa Trust on October 2020 conducted training on how to make reusable sanitary pads with three women from the beadwork groups. The ladies already own sewing machines. After the training, they were given some materials to make samples of the pads. Once they are done, the samples will be collected and inspected thereafter. If confirmed correctly done, the ladies will be issued with raw materials to begin the process of making the pads in large quantities. This process will help address the challenges faced by girls and women in accessing sanitary pads. Also, it will help to reduce waste and environmental pollution since waste disposal remains a challenge at the grassroots level.