My Period is Everyone's Business. Women & Sanitation in Africa's Slums

Unsafe sanitation services means serious trouble for women in Africa’s slums.

"As women we are in a very, very risky place." - Doris Museti, Nairobi

It's that time of the month.

Across Africa millions of adolescent girls are forced to use old clothes, rags, newspapers, leaves, bark and grass because they cannot afford sanitary towels.

The result, according to UNICEF, is that 1 in every 10 schoolgirls in Africa miss classes or drop out of school completely.

"...Without a clean and private toilet, menstruating girls often miss school due to pain, or embarrassment. Over time, this can impact their education and after years of struggling without toilets, menstruation can push them to drop out altogether." (

In Nairobi, menstruating women have to hide their dirty sanitary towels, throwing them on top of shacks or in the road. There is nowhere to dispose of them inside the house. Family members will complain about the smell.

Women are made to feel ashamed of this natural, monthly occurrence, and are forced to dispose of sanitary towels in a manner that leaves the settlement dirty, and its inhabitants at greater risk of disease.

It is the same story when a woman gives birth. There is nowhere to dispose of the afterbirth, so it is kept in a tin can in the house. Doris Museti, a resident of Mukuru - one of Nairobi's largest slums says, “The container will remain in the house until very late in the evening. What is she to do with it? She will have to wait until very late to dispose of it, maybe mix it with dirty water and then throw it out…. Nowadays, blood carries everything...."

"We have just been surviving.”

"For us as women, we feel this is not for us. Maybe it is for animals, but not for us.” - Phyllis Mulelwa, Nairobi

Education about menstruation and gender-sensitive sanitation facilities can help keep girls in school, prevent infections and disease, and change their futures.

“When there is a visitor, or if I have my period, I can’t urinate at night; so on those days I don’t take any water... I have to wait until morning."

The solution: holistic menstrual hygiene management.

Access to clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood;

Privacy for changing materials and for bathing with soap and water;

Clean water, soap, and privacy for washing stains from clothes and reusable menstrual materials and;

Access to hygienic disposal facilities for used menstrual materials.

“If I had a toilet, I would be able to change my pad anytime."

When SDI’s women-led federations of the urban poor build sanitation facilities, women are involved from the word go.

They say where the toilets go (somewhere safe, to prevent violent attacks) and they say what should be included (a completely private female only area for toilets, showers, hand washing, and laundry). They usually include space for community meetings (or women’s health clinics) and starting now they will serve as distribution centres for sanitary materials made by urban poor women themselves.

On top of this, SDI sanitation units are affordable. Families pay a monthly service fee, rather than a pay-per-use system which quickly becomes far too expensive – especially for women and children.

My period is everyone's business -- even yours.

Your contribution will give these women & girls:

A whole night's sleep.

Peace of mind.

A way to stay in school.

Get involved. Donate today.
Created By
Slum Dwellers International

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.