Reducing Barriers for Menstruating Women in the Workplace

To remove some of the stigma associated with menstruation in the workplace, CCP is conducting a menstrual health and hygiene program in Kenya
A worker in a mattress factory where Breakthrough ACTION Kenya is working to break taboos about menstruation.

In an effort to remove some of the stigma associated with menstruation in the workplace and to ensure working women have access to properly appointed bathrooms and menstrual products, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs has embarked on a menstrual health and hygiene program in Kenya.

The CCP-led Breakthrough ACTION Kenya project is teaming up with workplaces and the Ministry of Health to ensure that women feel comfortable at work when they are on their periods and to combat the chronic absenteeism of many women of childbearing age.

“Menstruation has more or less been treated as a taboo subject, despite being part and parcel of reproductive health,” says CCP’s Walter Odede, the technical lead for the menstrual health and hygiene project. “There are many myths and misperceptions. Women deserve to be treated with dignity and to be able to take care of themselves while on the job, without fear of embarrassment or feeling forced to stay home from work several days a month.”

In three counties in Western Kenya – Migori, Kisumu, and Kakamega – CCP is working with factories and companies (a mattress factory, a bakery and a sugar processing facility, to start) to help increase awareness of the needs of women during menstruation and for hygiene infrastructure at work, such as running water, trash bins and bathrooms that lock.

CCP’s goal is to help companies develop – or improve – workplace menstrual health policies, provide menstrual products and to train menstrual health champions who will be able to continually spread the word and answer questions that women may have.

CCP also wants to find a partner who will supply workers with sanitary pads and other menstrual products and then create a space where they can demonstrate how different products can be used.

In 2022, the World Health Organization declared menstrual health a health and human rights issue.

As part of the work in Kenya, Breakthrough ACTION conducted a human-centered design process, talking with women about menstruating while at work and trying to find ways to improve the menstruation experience in the workplace. Over the next few months, the team will implement and assess these ideas.

Addressing menstrual health in the workplace could reduce absenteeism and improve gender equality, Odede says.

“People don’t talk about it openly,” he says. “When women are menstruating at the workplace, some find it very difficult to even ask for permission or find assistance. So they come up with excuses to stay at home, simply because at the workplace the environment is not supportive enough. There is no availability of menstrual products. There is no information around certain things that they experience during these periods.

“When you look at it over time, like two to three days every month, over time, you find absenteeism and a reduction in economic productivity of the workers. We just want women to have equal rights on the job.”



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