Effects of sanitary pad distribution and reproductive health education on upper primary school attendance and reproductive health knowledge and attitudes in Kenya: a cluster randomized controlled trial

Case Studies & Research
p. 1-13
Periodical title
Reproductive Health, 18, 179 (2021)

Adolescent girls face a range of challenges that may compromise their chances of completing school or their sexual and reproductive health. These challenges can be even further complicated by girls’ feelings of shame about their bodies, in particular about menstruation, or their lack of sanitary products to help them manage menstruation. This study sought out to assess if providing girls in grade 7 in a rural, coastal area of Kenya with sanitary pads and sex education would alleviate some of those challenges. One hundred and forty schools were included in the study and 35 each were randomly assigned to one of the following program packages: (1) standard government provision of pads and health education; (2) regular monthly provision of sanitary pads; (3) sex education; or (4) both regular monthly provision of sanitary pads and sex education. The study found that none of the three program packages had an impact on school attendance, however those that participated in the sex education felt more positively about menstruation, knew more about sexual and reproductive health, had more equitable gender norms and were more self-confident at the end of the program. The study results show that addressing girls’ menstrual health challenges are important, but are better positioned as part of comprehensive sexuality education programs addressing stigma and shame associated with menstruation, access to menstrual products, inequitable gender norms and sexual and reproductive health knowledge gaps, as opposed to a girls education intervention.

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