The Problem

The Water Hyacinth

The water hyacinth is an invasive weed that can be found in many places of the world 5. Among others, it covers a large part of Lake Victoria in Kenya. The water hyacinth creates a green mat on the water surface and poses as a problem to the ecosystem and also to the inhabitants. Not only does it render it difficult for them to the access the water from the lake-side, but also makes it hard for local fishermen to reach the open water with their small boats.

The water hyacinth grows with an immense speed – one plant can produce nearly three new plants in one week 7. A total of US$8.31 has been spent on trying to control the hyacinths on Lake Victoria 9. The mechanical, chemical as well as biological means of reducing the water hyacinths have however given rise to a negative side effect in which either the entire plant or parts of it are left to rot in the lake water. This process reduces the oxygen content of the water, thereby affecting the ecological balance of the lake.

Menstruation in Developing Countries

Menstruation has many implications on women in developing countries. Rather than risk the embarrassment of menstruating through their clothes, many girls stay home from school. This can lead to them falling behind in their studies and possibly dropping out of school altogether 6. Families may suffer from increased poverty as women are unable to work during their menstruation 1. For many women, practical menstruation issues include:

Affordability: The price of sanitary protection is often too high 8. Many therefore resort to using unconventional solutions such as newspapers, cheap tissue paper or pieces of clothes and blankets 2.

Hygienic risks: With improvised sanitary products, there is a high prevalence of vaginal infections, making women more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. In some cases, it has even led to infertility or required hysterectomies 1.

Lack of sanitation facilities: Many schools do not have basic sanitation facilities such as running water, toilet facilities and appropriate disposal systems 4. This affects girls’ possibilities to wash reusable pads, change sanitary protection and to remain clean during their menstruation.

Cultural perception: Many myths, misconceptions and taboos concerning menstruation exist. In many cultures, girls must marry as a virgin and tampons are therefore not an option 8. In Kenya, it is taboo for a father to see his daughter’s blood, especially that stemming from menstruation. During their menstruation, they are not supposed to prepare meals for their fathers, who should not know that their daughters are menstruating 2.

Disposal: An average Western woman disposes 125-150 kg of sanitary protection throughout her lifetime 3. Without a proper waste management system, as often is the case in developing countries, the disposal of sanitary protection can become an increasing environmental issue. In Kenya, menstrual protection is mostly disposed of in pit latrines. This is a preferred alternative to disposing it through burning as some believe that a girl may lose her fertility when burning her own blood 2.

Reference List

1 Action for South Africa (2009) Campaign History. Accessed from: http://www.actsa.org/page-1040-Campaign%20History.html [2009-05-02]

2 Awuor, B. (2009-05-06), Email on behalf of WIFIP Education and Development

3 Bharadwaj, S., Patkas, A. (November 2004). Menstrual Hygiene and Management in Developing Countries: Taking Stock. Junction Social

4 Biriwasha, M (March 25th 2008), Menstruation Pushes Young African Girls to the Edge | Ground Report. Accessed from http://www.groundreport.com/Arts_and_Culture/Menstruation-Pushes-Young-African-Girls-to-the-Edg_1 [2009-05-02]

5 Julien, M. (2008), Plant biology and other issues that relate to the management of water hyacinth: a global perspective with focus on Europe. Bulletin OEPP/EPPO Bulletin 38, p 477–486

6 Obae, A.N. (2008), Helping Tonga girls stay in school. A report on the water project and plight of the girl child for Tonga girls. Osienala, Friends of Lake Victoria, Kisumu, Kenya.

7 Sainty G. (1985). Weed control and utilization of aquatic plants of Lake Edku and Barsik fish farm. Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. Accessed from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/field/003/R7236E/R7236E00.HTM [2009-04-15]

8 Tjon A Ten, V. (2007-10-10), Menstrual Hygiene – A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals. Europe External Policy Advisors

9 World Bank (2006-06-27). Kenya – Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project. Implementation Completion and Results Report: Report No. 36557, p 2, 11, 32, 36