Blog

Covid-19 Leads to an Increased Practice of Female Genital…

written by: Jenny Jecrois

In a previous blog post, we discussed how the closing of schools due to Covid-19 led to an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies and a decrease in the number of girls attending school. The impact of Covid-19 on young girls and the closing of schools is further highlighted by their increasing vulnerability to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), swelling the number of girls getting the procedure getting done.

About three months ago, the Kenyan High Court prohibited female mutilation to consenting adults because of the high health risks.The Kenya Female Genital Mutilation Act, further states that anyone found guilty of female circumcision could be sentenced to at least three years in jail or pay a fine of $1,800.

The prolonged school closures during this period can be directly linked to the risk young girls experience in regard to FGM. The schedule of school often indirectly protects girls from FGM practice because school breaks aren’t long enough for them to undergo the procedure and recover – a process that can take as long as two months if the area becomes infected. It has been reported that some mothers were happy with the long school closures because it allowed for a better opportunity for their daughters to get circumcised. The social network of schools, from peers and teachers, actively protected girls by holding parents accountable. Schoolmates would tell teachers if one of their female classmates had been cut and the teacher would report the parents to the police. Additionally, in school, girls were taught about the risks of FGM.

As many families struggle economically due to loss of employment during the pandemic, the dowry they would receive for marrying off their daughters is further incentive for FGM. In some of the tribes, FGM is a longstanding tradition, and it is an expectation for girls who wish to be married. In addition to not having the choice of getting the procedure done, girls expressing pain are also neglected. With cold water used as an anesthetic, the cries and shouts are culturally unaccepted as they signify cowardice and deem girls less attractive as possible wives. While the prevalence of FGM has decreased from 28 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2014, there exist significant variations regionally due to cultural and ethnic diversity.

Due to Covid-19, public awareness programs against FGM and rescue centres for women fleeing forced marriages have been disrupted in many countries. Since some of the centres also function as schools, they have to follow the school closing regulation, which hinders the service available to young girls and women. More than ever, it is time for youth advocacy and women’s health rights to be voiced as we see that this practice is not only illegal due to health risks but is culturally deeply ingrained in some societies denying girls their rights and overall wellbeing.

Blog

Importance of Investing in Menstrual Hygiene

Written by Jenny Jecrois- Roughly 500 million girls and women globally face limited access to managing their menstruation, according to the FSG report (FSG was previously called ‘Institute For Strategy and Competitiveness’). The Menstrual Health in Kenya Analysis reports that 65% of women are unable to afford sanitary pads, 50% of girls openly discuss menstruation at home, 32% of rural schools have facilities available for menstrual needs, and only 12% of girls feel comfortable receiving menstrual information from their mothers. There is a significant barrier to menstrual hygiene management (MHM) across Kenya, and it considerably harms girls and women living in low-income areas.

Fortunately, the importance of menstrual health is no longer unnoticed by global health organizations as they acknowledge that menstrual health is a matter of human rights. The report, Making the Case for Investing in Menstrual Health and Hygiene, is part of the growing effort in advancing menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) needs. In this report, it is stated that despite the increase in partners and attention to the issues of MHH, institutional funding is nowhere near what is required to address the challenges of MHH. Many organizations focus their investment on menstrual hygiene products, education, and water hygiene and sanitation (WASH), while few addresses social norms and policy. All sectors must be invested in this because MHH is greater than a lack of menstrual health products but also involves debunking societal and cultural norms.

As mentioned, addressing MHH requires a multidisciplinary approach in which public health; water hygiene and sanitation, environment, gender equality, and education are all considered. The importance of investing in menstrual hygiene is for the improvement of women’s’ and girls’ health and quality of life. Investing in MHH has a positive correlation to economic development as MHM can keep women at work. Proper menstrual hygiene keeps girls in school, therefore allowing them to maintain the same educational pace as their male counterparts. Improved communication and sensitization around MHM can also ensure better mental health amongst women and girls by empowering them rather than making them feel estranged.

Investing in menstrual hygiene aligns with achieving several Sustainable Development Goals, specifically good health and wellbeing, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation. Such an investment is no more than investing in human rights because women’s rights are human rights. A world without period poverty is possible if we focus our attention on investing in menstrual health and hygiene.

Podcast

Ep 16: Interview with Public Health and Molecular Medicine…

Ep 16: Interview with Public Health and Molecular Medicine Expert Dorothy Kagendo

 
 
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In this week’s episode, we interview Dorothy Kagendo about her academic, professional, and personal journey to becoming an expert in public health and microbiology. Dorothy shares with us innovative approaches to sanitation and the importance of inclusivity in STEM academia. Tune in!

Podcast

Ep 15: Inside Umande Trust with Jack O.

Ep 15: Inside Umande with Jack O.

 
 
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Tune in to episode 15 to learn more about Jack O.’s role at Umande Trust. Jack O. brings a new perspective on governance in WASH and advocacy to strengthen the community. Here you can learn more about what goes into organizations like Umande Trust.

Podcast

Ep 14: Meet the Champions Catherine and Judy

Ep 14: Meet the Champions Catherine and Judy

 
 
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In this episode, Umande Interns, Jenny Jecrois, and Deanna Buba interviewed Community Health Volunteer, Judy and Women’s Health Activist, Cate on an in-depth discussion on period poverty, sanitation, and menstrual hygiene, and women empowerment. Make sure to have a pen and paper nearby as these two women provided excellent suggestions on promoting women’s health rights and how we can end period poverty.  

Projects

Women’s Voices – ICT Choices

There is a gap in gender representation among the people of Kibera in regards to having the women’s voices heard on issues involving their community and the society they live in.  This project, Women’s Voices – ICT Choices, seeks to capture women’s views and ideas about county development, and make sure, these ideas are shared with the relevant authorities.

It looks to address four main themes of governance, transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption. To do this, we plan to train women in the community to be representatives of the rest of the community, called women voices champions. These women will be in charge of collecting and analyzing data from and about the community as well as other administrative work. The women will also be in charge of updating the social media pages and the dashboard with real-time information on the Wards that will connect the project to the community and the rest of the world. The information they collect will be shared with the relevant county officials, so they can put the community’s thoughts into action. The local media will also be engaged to reach out to more people and to steer discussions around accountable governance with a focus on devolution.

The women’s voices champions will help to give voice to other female members of the community whose ideas and opinions may not have been able to be shared without this project. Women’s Voices will be run through four of Kibera’s bio-sanitation facilities in four wards (Makina, Sarang’ombe, Lindi and Laini Saba) since they are already a focal point for men and women in the community.