‘Period shaming’ caused one young girl to take her life
One of the most natural parts of being a woman is our menstrual cycle. There’s nothing shameful about what a woman’s body is biologically meant to do, but as we’ve seen throughout history and even in today’s present world, menstruation is seen as something taboo and/or “unnatural.” For one young girl, her first period became her mother’s worst nightmare due to period shaming.
On September 6, in the southwest region of Kabiangek, Kenya, Jackline Chepngeno was kicked out of her classroom after allegedly being period shamed by her female teacher. It was Jackline’s first time getting her period and unfortunately she was not met with helpful assistance from someone who should have been more than understanding of what was going on. Instead, she was publicly humiliated.
Jackline was called dirty as she was met with her first experience of having a menstrual cycle, and with no pads to use she bled through her school uniform. Her mother says that after she was kicked out of class she immediately walked home and told her what had happened just moments before, but after she arrived home she left again and she was later found in an area nearby where she took her own life. This tragic event is an indicator of the magnitude of shame that women in parts of the world still face and the work that still needs to be done to raise awareness/protect women and young girls!
After everyone got word of what happened, a protest was held outside of the Ministry of Education by female members of Parliament in support of Jackline. Esther Passaris, County 047 Member of the National Assembly, says that the Gregory Magoha, the Education Cabinet Secretary, has agreed to “investigate the circumstances that led to the death of a student due to period shaming.” Passaris, along with several other women members of Parliament, have committed to continuing their protest for Jackline. They want to end period shaming.
Just two years ago, Kenya passed a law that would require schools to provide free menstrual products so that young girls would not have to miss out on school. This law would not only help girls continue to stay in school and give access to those that can’t afford menstrual products but normalize menstrual cycles and the discussions around them. Unfortunately, due to a funding problem, the program hasn’t officially rolled out yet.
Jackline Chepngeno’s story is incredibly unfortunate, but also very upsetting. Period shaming has to end as well as the societal taboos that come with menstruation. As women who experience the same thing, it could have been a much different story if her female teacher would have taken the time to help her with something that was naturally going to happen no matter what. There is nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to be publicly humiliated.
We hope that women and men alike will continue to spread awareness and bring light to topics surrounding menstruation all across the world so that period shaming will not have to result in another tragic ending.
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