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Periods Are Not a Barrier to Women's Excellence

period shaming should end

BY Agnes Amondi

Nov 02, 2022, 09:21 AM

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For all the activism that’s been done to give girls and women access to every level of society,  at times some circumstances force us to pause and reflect on whether there’s progress if any being made.

Last week a Kenyan member of parliament for South Mugirango Silvanus Osoro was accused of sexism after he suggested that the parliamentary committee's recommendation to reject Ms Peninah Malonza’s appointment to become the cabinet secretary of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage may have been down to her being on her monthly period. 
His words: “The rejection ought to be on matters that are serious… not on issues of presentation to the committee, maybe she wasn’t dressed very well, maybe she was on her period,” 
Although the initial part of his comment insinuates that he disapproved of the committee’s decision, the fact that menstruation makes it into the comment shows how women are still judged. It’s akin to saying that because women menstruate, they are incapable. 

Female MPs called him out as well as the Kajiado Gender Advocacy Network who demanded an apology. Why must it always be about the sideshows - clothes (mind you she was well dressed), her marital status or any other thing besides her qualification? 

It’s baffling that even after women have demonstrated their competence and ability to deliver, we are still belittled and dragged back to the dark days.  

Period shame

Breaking news! Women menstruate but not everything that happens to them is about menstruation. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and everyone has days they don’t just hit the mark. It is normal.

The comments made by the MP simply normalise period shaming. For those who don’t know, period shaming is basically discriminating against people simply because they menstruate and thus making them feel embarrassed about it. 

Most women have experienced this. In fact, if you dare express anger or have a change of mood, it is linked to periods. There are now many support groups and organisations that are working not just to end period poverty but also period shame. These communities encourage people, men and women, to talk and learn more about this issue and we guess that they should have a new student.

No Excuses 

One social media user defended the remarks of Mr Osoro stating that his words were taken out of context. 
“Let us be honest here guys/ladies, let us not attack the young Osoro, as a matter of fact, all of you who are married know that you have to be careful when your woman is going through issues, and women can agree with me on this one. Answering deep things can be tough,” said Pastor Thomas Mutai on Twitter. 
You can’t even begin to explain what he is getting at here. Does menstruation stop our brains from working? We have seen men give flimsy reasons under high-pressure situations. Do we ever trace it back to their biological makeup?
 
I need not remind you about the horrific Westgate mall attack and what the then cabinet secretary for Interior and Coordination of the National Government Joseph Ole Lenku said.

It is not the first time that Mr Osoro has been accused of demeaning women. Ahead of the general elections in August, he said that Martha Karua is unfit to be Kenya's deputy president because she is single. He even tore into her failed marriage. 

These attacks have been allowed to happen particularly when women aspire for leadership positions. All sorts of demeaning statements are thrown their way and surviving them is praised as "having a thick skin". 

Women should never be in this position, to begin with. Yes, they should brace themselves for a competitive environment but not verbal abuse. We never hear men being taunted for being horrible husbands or fathers or for being divorced. 

It’s simply time to stop making excuses for people with such opinions and thoughts. Instead, admitting to the error and learning will do much to improve things. To get there, we need men to be allies and tell their fellow men when they err.