Fierce

A 14-Year-Old Was Reportedly Driven To Suicide After She Was Humiliated At Her Own School For Having Her Period

A 14-year-old Kenyan girl killed herself after being period shamed by a teacher when she did not have access to a pad. The tragedy has caused unrest in Kenya, unifying women Parliament members to end period stigma, causing parents to mobilize, and launching a formal investigation into the girl’s death. Period shame around the world is an oppressive force that undermines bodily autonomy, education, and personal freedoms for girls and nonbinary people by stigmatizing a basic body function.

According to the United Nations Population Fund report on Menstrual Health Management in East and Southern Africa, “Studies from Kenya find that schoolgirls engage in transactional sex to pay for menstrual products, particularly for the younger, uneducated, economically dependent girls.” 

In the United States, a survey of 1500 women and 500 men by THINX revealed that 58 percent of women felt a sense of embarrassment for simply being on their period and 42 percent said they had been explicitly period shamed.

While Kenya has recently taken steps to make sanitary napkins more accessible at schools, this structural failure has led to a tragic loss. 

Period shaming can have tragic consequences. 

A 14-year-old Kenyan girl started her period for the very first time while at middle school in Bomet County, Kenya. When she couldn’t obtain a pad, the girl began to bleed through her school uniform. Unable to concentrate, due to the incident, she asked for help. Then her teacher berated her in class, calling her “dirty” for staining her clothes. 

Forced to leave the classroom, she walked home. After telling her mother what happened, she said she was going to go fetch water, but instead, she killed herself. According to a local Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, Konoin Sub-County Police Commander Alex Shikondi said that officers took the girl’s body to a nearby hospital. 

“When police arrived at the scene, they found the girl had committed suicide… and the body was moved to Kapkatet Hospital mortuary,” said Commander Alex Shikondi.

Parents want answers.

The girl’s mother, Beatrice Koech, spoke to Daily Nation about what happened. She claimed her daughter believed the female teacher would be an ally to her, and help her understand what was happening. Instead, her daughter was shamed in front of the classroom. 

“She had nothing to use as a pad,” Koech told the newspaper. “When the blood stained her clothes, she was told to leave the classroom and stand outside.”

Koech reported the incident to police, but after four days of inaction, parents stormed the school in protest. Parents wanted to know why the teacher shamed the 14-year-old. Police threw tear gas canisters at the parents who were blocking the road to the school. Officers arrested five demonstrators. The school was closed and students were sent home. 

Basic Education Act of 2017

Kenya passed the Basic Education of 2017, which makes access to menstrual napkins mandatory in public schools across the country. Pads in public schools are not a mere luxury, the necessary product is inaccessible to many in the region. Just last year, the capital of Kenya itself was hit with a tampon shortage when there was massive Kotex recall in Nairobi due to a malfunctioning batch.

When a person has their period and no sanitary napkins or tampons, they are more likely to stay home from school. This can have negative effects on girls’ and nonbinary folks’ education and self-esteem, often making children feel like a burden. 

“The cost of menstrual products may also contribute to the perception that daughters are economically burdensome,” according to the United Nations

School is often the only place where students can get pads, which is why the Basic Education Act is great. Nevertheless, many schools have still not implemented the program or have been skipped over. 

Kenyans want justice.

According to BuzzFeed, “An organization called One Dollar for Life, which makes and distributes reusable pads to girls across Kenya, has ramped up its outreach in light of the girl’s death last week. Program manager Brenda Birrell told BuzzFeed News via email that the group plans to hand out 1,000 reusable pad kits — which also contain information about self-defense, female biology, and feminine hygiene — over the next two months.”

Women members of Kenyan’s Parliament occupied the Ministry of Education to pressure a police investigation. After parents and lawmakers held their ground, the police finally launched a formal investigation into the girl’s death.

“What must she be going through in her life to have that be her reaction?” Megan White Mukuria, whose organization ZanaAfrica Foundation provides pads and reproductive education to girls, told BuzzFeed. 

“The reality for a lot of women can be very difficult. [Maybe] her cup has not been filled, and her rights have not been taught to her.”

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Things That Matter

A Group Of Women At A Migrant Detention Center Demanded Information About Covid-19, Then They Were Pepper Sprayed

Nick Ruiz / Getty

As the Coronavirus spreads throughout communities across the United States, one group of people are at particular risk for contracting the virus: migrant detainees.

Tens of thousands of migrants are packed into crowded detention centers with little access to proper sanitation or medical treatment. Even before the outbreak of Covid19, migrants were facing outbreaks of measles and influenza at greater numbers than the general public.

Now, as they demand information on the risk this new virus poses them, they’re being met with violence.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so have confrontations between detainees and guards.

Credit: DHS / Office Of Inspector General

On Monday, migrants clashed with guards over a lack of safe conditions and demanded to be released from the South Texas Processing Center. The melee led to a standoff and the guards shot pepper spray at the detainees, which ended with nine of the migrants now held for disciplinary charges. The detainees had raised concerns about the lack of screening measures for new arrivals to the complex.

Then, a day later in Louisiana, an ICE spokesman said seven people were pepper-sprayed at the Pine Prairie detention center. Earlier, an ICE detainee in New Jersey described harrowing conditions and said migrants went on a hunger strike for soap. ProPublica obtained an audio recording in which the detainee said that guards, in response to the strike for hygiene products in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, told the detainees that they “have to die of something.”

The threat faced by detainees in ICE custody is real.

Credit: Grisel Gringis / YouTube

Four people — two correctional officers and two detainees — tested positive for COVID-19 at New Jersey detention facilities.

According to ICE’s guidance, new detainees who arrive at facilities are screened and isolated for a certain period of time if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms. The staff is also consulting with local health departments to determine whether there’s a need for testing.

For ICE’s part, they’re defending the use of chemicals against detainees as a necessary tool.

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox told Mother Jones that pepper spray was used because “four persons became confrontational.” The rest of his statement said:

“The facility was conducting an informational briefing on COVID-19 preparations and safety measures in a detainee housing area to ensure persons in custody have accurate, timely information about the situation,”

As far as the use of force against migrants, he goes on to say: “ICE is tasked with providing safe and secure detention facilities for individuals in its custody. On March 25, at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana, a group of ICE detainees became disruptive and confrontational with facility staff in their housing area. Detainees refused to comply with directives from facility staff and four attempted to force their way out of the housing area, at which time facility staff deployed oleoresin capsicum, commonly referred to as ‘OC’ spray. Upon deployment of OC, the detainees became compliant and facility staff was able to mitigate further risk of injury to both detainees and staff. This immediate use of force was conducted consistent with agency protocol. Medical staff evaluated all individuals who came in contact with the pepper spray; no detainee or staff injuries were reported.”

Even before the outbreak, ICE was using pepper spray against migrants in its facilities.

Last summer, over 100 immigrants were pepper-sprayed at a Louisiana Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. The incident happened after a group of detainees began to protest the conditions they were being forced to endure.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said that a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening,” adding that “after repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, a brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

And this incident came just a day after 30 migrants were sprayed at a separate Louisiana facility. It’s obvious ICE is eager to use pepper spray against detainees in their care.

This Ecuadorian Wants Girls To Feel Comfortable With Their Period, So She Wrote A Beautiful Book To Walk Them Through It

Fierce

This Ecuadorian Wants Girls To Feel Comfortable With Their Period, So She Wrote A Beautiful Book To Walk Them Through It

VientresLibresEC / Facebook

Do you remember having your period for the first time? Were you relieved, scared, or confused? Did you think you could bleed to death, or believe that you couldn’t swim or go to gym class? Did you hear someone make joking references to women being “nasty” and think, “I’ll die of embarrassment if anyone knows?” Did you feel like you were prepared? This Ecuadorian writer wants girls to reconcile with their bodies, so she wrote a book to walk girls through menstruation.

In a world that is increasingly progressive, menstruation is often still a taboo subject.

More often than not, what information girls do hear around their bodies is often negative or incorrect, and even school health classes that discuss the subject often focus on the theoretic and biological “systems” that make it work, without ever touching on the real, practical experience of a monthly cycle. As a result a girl’s first period is still likely to be disconcerting for her.

Ecuadorian academic and menstrual educator-turned-author Paulina Vásquez Quirola wrote a book on the subject.

Taking readers on a fantastical trip between awakened states and lucid dreams she tells the story of a girl’s reconciliation with her changing body.

The book, published in Spanish, walks girls through the mystical celebrations of the female body.

From classroom scenes, where periods are shamed, to celebrations in mystical women’s circles, the book offers an alternative to the negative connotations that menstruation still holds in schools when it comes to periods.

The book talks about the ancient Andino wisdom surrounding menstruation.

‘Tribu de Mujeres’, illustrated by José Rafael Delgado, explains the wisdom of the Andes transmitted by elderly women like its protagonist, Abuela Killa. When passed on from one generation to the next, young people learn that menstruation reveals the creative urge and cyclic nature of all living beings and life itself.

Parents, friends and teachers can make the experience a much more positive experience.

By providing girls with accurate information, real-life experience, and practical advice, they can learn to view their menstrual cycle in a totally different way: as an important element of their female nature. “I discovered the importance of understanding ourselves cyclically, of understanding ourselves as part of nature, as part of a whole,” explains Vásquez. “I think that is one of the big issues. Modernity and the system in which we live makes us disconnect from ourselves, from others in the sense of community and nature, the universe, from something much bigger.”

An important way to make girls more comfortable with menstruation is to make sure that they have accurate information.

Not just about how and why it works, but also on the day-to-day, real life business of it. “We live it as something tiresome, as something exhausting. So it’s like, shit, it came! It’s time again! When is it over? Many of us have that negative view of our cycle,” says Vásquez. The more comfortable women and girls are with our own bodies, the more we will learn to handle both the first mentruation, and the ongoing experience.

Tribu de Mujeres is available in Spanish. Visit Vientres Libres to get a copy.