Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba was kicked out of Parliament on February 14, 2023, for wearing stained trousers. MenEngage Africa is particularly disappointed that members of the legislature acted in a demeaning manner towards the senator and every woman and girl she represents.
Gloria Orwoba was asked to leave halfway through the session after her fellow parliamentarians requested the speaker to eject her for supposedly violating the house’s “dress code”. Orwoba, the nominated senate leader, is campaigning for free sanitary towel provision and is planning to introduce a bill in the coming months.
Members of the legislature’s actions perpetuate menstrual stigma and shame. Menstruation is a natural part of women and girls lives and should not be shamed or stigmatized. It perpetuates gender discrimination, contributes to educational and economic inequalities, and limits the potential of an entire generation of women and girls.
Kenya has seen extreme incidents of menstrual shaming. In 2019, a 14-year-old girl killed herself after a teacher reportedly shamed her when she stained her uniform on her first period. Stigma pushes many girls to stay home and not go to school when menstruating.
In the video published in the Nation. The speaker of the house continues to perpetuate the taboo on menstrual periods by citing the Holy Bible and the Quran. This is typical of men or leaders who manipulate or violate human rights in the name of their religious or traditional beliefs. Such behaviour is not acceptable especially by legislatures who should be leading from the front in asserting the rights of all.
MenEngage notes that Orwoba was targeted by severe cyberbullying and threats of sexual violence after period poverty protest.
Menstruation stigma is an issue that has been around for centuries and has held back generations of women and girls from achieving their full potential. It is an issue that affects women and girls of all ages, and it is time for us to come together to break this stigma and ensure that all women and girls are empowered and respected.
MenEngage Africa challenges the members of the legislature:
- To engage in an open and honest discussion about the subject. This can be accomplished by encouraging people to discuss menstruation more openly and without fear of being judged.
- Apologise unreservedly to honorable Gloria Orwoba and to all women and girls for the unfair treatment.
- To educate people about menstruation, the various products available to manage it, and the effects it can have on people.
- To create a supportive and inclusive environment around menstruation. This could include providing menstrual products, providing period leave, or having a zero-tolerance policy for negative menstrual language or attitudes.
- Finally, it is critical to recognise the intersection of menstruation and other identities and work to understand how they interact. We can help remove the shame and stigma associated with menstruation by taking these steps.
Period poverty is a struggle for many women and girls that’s why we fully support Nominated Senator Gloria’s motion on free sanitary towels aimed at ending period poverty.
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
MenEngage Africa is part of a global alliance of organisations that engage men and boys to achieve gender equality, promote health, reduce violence and to question and address the structural barriers to achieving gender equality. The alliance consists of 22 country networks spread across East, West, Central and Southern Africa. MEA members work collectively toward advancing gender justice, human rights and social justice in key thematic areas including Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), gender-based violence (GBV) & HIV prevention, Child Rights and Positive Parenting and in promoting peace on the continent.