Kenyan schoolgirl, 14, kills herself after alleged period shaming by teacher | Global development

Kenyan schoolgirl, 14, kills herself after alleged period shaming by teacher | Global development

A 14-year-old schoolgirl in Kenya took her own life after a teacher allegedly embarrassed her for having her period in class.

The girl’s death has prompted protests from female parliamentarians and reignited a national conversation about “period shaming” and access to menstrual products.

The girl’s mother said her daughter was found dead last Friday after she got her period during class and stained her clothes. Her teacher allegedly called her “dirty” and expelled her from the classroom in Kabiangek, west of Nairobi.

It was the girl’s first period, her mother told local media, and she did not have a sanitary pad.

The incident has cast a spotlight on a 2017 law requiring Kenya’s government to distribute free sanitary pads to all schoolgirls. Poor implementation of the law is the subject of a parliamentary investigation.

On Wednesday, female MPs “laid siege” to the education ministry to protest about the girl’s death and discuss the programme, MP Esther Passaris wrote on Twitter.

More than 200 parents also protested outside the school in Kabiangek this week, local media reported, condemning both the teacher’s handling of the incident and alleged lack of action by authorities. Alex Shikondi, the regional police chief, said the girl’s death was under investigation.

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters and arrested at least five people after they pulled down the school’s gate, according to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. The school has been temporarily closed.

Access to menstrual products is a huge problem across sub-Saharan Africa, where an inability to afford sanitary products prompts many girls to avoid school during their periods. A 2014 Unesco report estimated that one in 10 girls miss school during menstruation, which means they miss out on 20% of their schooling each year.

Kenya is considered a leader in addressing this problem.

In 2004, it scrapped a tax on menstrual products. Similar “tampon taxes”, as they have been styled, have sparked protests in the UK and still exist in many US states.

In 2017, Kenya passed a law requiring the government to give free pads to all schoolgirls.

But there are concerns about whether the $4.5m (£3.6m) set aside for the programme has improved access to sanitary products and increased school attendance.

George Magoha, the country’s education cabinet secretary, told local media last month that a random sampling of schoolgirls indicated they had not received pads. Passaris said Magoha told female MPs on Wednesday that the programme has problems with budgetary constraints and procurement.

Passaris added that the project’s budget would need to be “at least 10 times” larger if it were to provide free sanitary towels for all of Kenya’s schoolgirls.

The education ministry and Teachers Service Commission of Kenya are conducting their own investigation into the schoolgirl’s death, said Passaris, with a report scheduled for publication in the coming weeks.

“We had a candid discussion about sanitary towels, the little girl who died, and the investigation that is ensuing,” she said. “We need to make it so that girls aren’t ashamed of their periods, and I don’t think we’ve won that battle yet.”

 In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at


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