We continue to treat menstruation as a crime, stigmatizing young girls, putting them to shame, reducing their self-esteem & then questioning why they don’t want to compete in this life or be a part of it.
A 14-year-old high school student in Kenya killed herself last week after her teacher shamed her for bleeding through her school uniform when she was on her period. The mother and relatives of the girl claim she hanged herself out of shame after being humiliated in class by a female teacher.
The mother and relatives of the girl claim she hanged herself out of shame after being humiliated in class by a female teacher.
A report by the Daily Nation, girl started her period for the first time on 6 September 2019 in the middle of the school day in Bomet County which is located about 150 miles northwest of the capital, Nairobi. The girl was completely caught off guard and didn’t have a pad, causing her to later bleed through her uniform. When the blood stained her clothes, she was told to leave the classroom and stand outside.
She committed suicide on the same day in the evening. Her mother said other girls in her class later narrated how she was thrown out of the classroom for soiling her dress. Although Police said they are still investigating the incident, her mother and other relatives say what triggered it is clear. “It was very inhumane for the teacher to humiliate her, and that is the reason she hanged herself. The teacher should take responsibility,” said one of the girl’s relatives.
The school’s headteacher John Kosile refused to comment on the issue, saying it was under investigation. “I am not in a position, at the moment, to comment or react to the claims, since the matter is being investigated. Police are in a better position to give information on the matter,” Mr Kosile said
Despite Kenya’s Basic Education Act of 2017, which mandates that pads be distributed to girls in public schools across the country, some institutions have been skipped over. This has forced many girls who can’t otherwise afford them to stay home from school.
On Tuesday afternoon more than 200 parents from the school accompanied the girl’s mother, Beatrice Chepkurui, in a protest march to the institution where they condemned the teacher and management of the institution for failing to protect the pupil. Several parents who protested at the school said it was absurd for a female teacher to humiliate a girl because of menstruation.
“It is wrong for a female teacher to humiliate a girl before other pupils because of her periods. How can a 14-year-old withstand such humiliation?” a parent said. The parents demanded that the police should question the teacher involved to know the circumstances that led to the girl’s expulsion from class. “It is more than five days since the girl died and we have reported the circumstances which led to her death and nothing has been done. It is unfortunate that they have not questioned the teacher,” another parent said.
According to Konoin OCPD Alex Shikondi, reports indicated that the girl left school at 10 am, picked a container to go fetch water but did not return. “She was found hanging from a tree. She did not leave a note explaining the reasons for her action,” said Mr Shikondi.
Stigma over menses is still prevalent in some communities, with women considered impure and dirty, and their activities heavily restricted. In some communities, menstruating women are not allowed in the kitchen and in church.
We need to teach our girls that Menstruation is part of growing up. We need to instil this knowledge at a young age.