What happens when you break the silence on periods? by Nancy Stone (Hydrogeologist). Across the globe, periods are not something that many people are comfortable talking about publicly, but half the world’s population will typically spend a staggering ten years of their life menstruating. It is a major part of women and girls’ hygiene, keeping clean on those days and dealing with feeling uncomfortable and unconfident, worrying about needing to find the bathroom often, what to wear, buying and carrying around sanitary products. It is no wonder that this time of the month is often dreaded and is a serious driver of gender inequality. The impact of having periods often limits women’s and girls' choices on those days, their freedom of movement, their feeling of self-worth, increased stress in daily activities, and related domestic conflict has a far greater impact on those in rural Kenya. Too many women and girls lack adequate menstrual education, lack access to affordable products, lack access to safe toilets, and have no means of safely disposing of used sanitary products. Combined with limited or no water for washing, women and girls face immense challenges in managing their periods in a private, safe, and dignified manner. Research shows that girls’ inability to manage their period in schools results in school absenteeism, which in turn, has severe economic costs on their lives and on national economy. For the Kamba people in south-eastern Kenya, there is also traditionally an almost total silence between women and men about periods. In turn, this limits access to education, adequate facilities, products, and exacerbates common taboos and myths. Many women and girls feel as though it is ‘bad blood’ that prevents them from taking part in normal life; they are told not to attend church service when they have their periods as they are impure; they are not supposed to come close to a beehive or bees will never visit the hive or make honey, not to shake their grandfather’s hands or cook for a sick person or else that person will die. Just a Drop and our implementing partner Africa Sand Dam Foundation want to dispel these myths and taboos. Just a Drop has started trialling menstrual hygiene training programmes as part of our water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects in Kenya to help break the silence and build awareness about menstrual hygiene management (MHM), enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. We are now hearing back from communities and schools about what this has meant to them. The feedback has been outstanding Understanding what periods are, how to keep clean when you have your period, predicting normal fertility cycles, training in making cost-effective re-usable sanitary pads, myth busting and breaking the silence around menstruation gives women and girls a level of control that they never realised was possible. Many women said this part of the project had the greatest impact for them, and it was clear that this was not said lightly. Educating both boys and girls about periods from an early age is critical in ending the silence. That is why we are also working across primary and secondary schools in Kenya to integrate menstrual hygiene training and access to sanitary products into our WASH projects, levelling the playing field and bringing power to the girls of the future whilst ensuring their peers, teachers, brothers, and fathers have the knowledge to support them. Members of the community now not only want to share their learning with anyone that will listen, but they also want to start up enterprise groups to make and sell affordable, reusable sanitary pads. These conversations and support are vital to supporting gender equality and we can’t wait to continue this training across 2023. If you would like to support us in this journey please donate at https://www.justadrop.org/donate/just-a-drop.