Why Embu parents don't buy panties for their girls

L-R: Jane Ndegi and Dr Joan Mwende

Parents in Embu County shy away from buying their daughters panties.

According to Dr Joan Mwende, the county head of gender, culture, children and social services, argues parents from that part of the woods consider underwear as culturally taboo.

Many girls in Embu thus suffer low self-esteem due to scarcity of underwear and with them, sanitary towels - two items they hardly ask their parents about when that time of the month comes.

The Embu County government, Dr Mwende said, plans to issue panties and sanitary pads to school going girls despite criticism and ridicule from a section of residents who thought the money should be put to ‘better’ use like bursaries and text books.

The Gender department has earmarked Sh3 million for panties and pads as the education department was already dealing with books and bursaries.

Dr Mwende explained that “provision of underwear to school going girl children from less fortunate families is a basic necessity just like food, water and shelter but has been shrouded in unnecessary stigma. There is need to demystify the underwear taboo to make children more comfortable.”

Unlike girls in urban areas who have more underpants, those in rural Kenya are not as lucky and the stigma attached to underwear is such that even adults shun away from buying them in public.

Dr Mwende said beside girls, Embu boys also suffer scarcity of underwear, but majority of fathers are opposed to them getting supplies arguing that the boys can live without them.

Dr Mwende said her department would set up funds to mentor boys which “would involve counselling and motivational talks for boys approaching puberty on how to become better men.”

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