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Why most girls shy away from tampons.

The shortage of tampons in the country earlier in the year sparked online outrage by women who did not understand the reason behind it.

Speaking to the Star, supermarket attendants said the outage started in October last year. The shortage hit several shops, mostly around Nairobi.

An attendant told the Star Kotex and OB were the most-affected brands due to their popularity. The maker of Kotex tampons voluntarily recalled several sets of its product because of a defect that caused them to unravel upon removal, leaving pieces inside consumers' bodies.

They further recalled stocks that were manufactured between October 2016 and October last year.

This was a contributing factor to the hiking of prices and online outrage.


Tampons, an alternative to traditional sanitary towels, are designed to absorb the menstrual flow after insertion into the female genitalia during menstruation.

Once inserted correctly, it is held in place by the female genitalia and expands as it soaks up menstrual flow.

From interviews conducted by the Star, it was established that most non-users believed tampons are a luxury that can be done away with.

The average price for a normal pack is between Sh200 and Sh250, depending on the demographics.

For instance, a tampon in Hurlingham will cost more than one being sold in Kangemi.

The leading tampon brands in the country include Kotex, OB, Cottons and Tampax, which are sold at major supermarkets, chemists and shops.

Apart from tampons, another alternative to sanitary towels is menstrual cups which hit the Kenyan market in 2017.

Menstrual cups are the most expensive alternative, going for between Sh1,500 and Sh3,500 per cup.

They are the least popular alternative, despite experts alleging they can last for up to 10 years.

Most respondents told the Star they use sanitary towels primarily because they are inexpensive.

"A single packet ranges from Sh50 to Sh200, when it's the expensive kind like Kotex," Brenda said.

A Tuskys Supermarket attendant said, 'Most women who use tampons prefer a particular brand, and when they come and miss what they want, they just walk away.'


Esther, 20, says she uses tampons because they are convenient for her. "You can still do a lot of activities with a tampon on, compared to when you wear a pad," she said.

The reporter, however, says she also uses pads at night because then they are the better option.

She started using tampons a few years ago, but she wishes she discovered the alternative earlier.

'Tampons are easier for heavier periods, and pads are better to use at night when sleeping and for lighter flows. Tampons also offer you a variety of dressing options,' Esther said.

Kiosk vendor Mercy Kioko, 38, told the Star she doesn't know what a tampon is but is shocked by the thought of them.

'What is a tampon? I've used Always all my life and I can't use something I don't know of. I'm too old to be using such. Young girls can use them but not me,' she said.

Brenda (not her real name), a student, says she can't use tampons, though, she's heard of them.

'The thought of inserting something into my female genitalia is unsettling and disgusting. Pads are easy to use and comfortable,' she said.

The 20-year-old student said she once tried tampons and regretted it because she was uncomfortable the whole time.

"The thought of the string hanging outside bothered me because I kept thinking it would cut loose and then I would have unimaginable problems removing the tampon," she said.

Naomi Wekesa, a businesswoman in her 40s, says she prefers tampons to pads.

'Tampons are very relaxing and not heavy. I can put them on while I wear a skirt, something that pads don't allow,' Wekesa said.

'Tampons really fit my mode of dressing, and young girls should try them. I'm sure they'll love them,' she said.


The Star sought to find out whether men purchase sanitary towels for their women.

Charcoal seller Wanjohi, 35, says he isn't for the idea of buying sanitary towels for his woman, regardless of the situation.

'I cannot buy pads because it's not my place to do so. She should organise herself and buy them in bulk to avoid inconveniences,' he said.

'Buying pampers for my kid is hard enough, and now pads, no way!'

John Asonga, a matatu driver in his 30s, laughed off the idea, saying he is a single man.

"I would not have minded buying my ex-girlfriend pads or tampons if need be, but she never asked me to do so," he said.

'It's not a big deal because it's part of a woman's life, and I would do it repeatedly.'

Alex* (not his real name), an accountant in Kiambu, says he will do anything for his girlfriend.

'I don't mind at all and I've done it a number of times. Women do a lot for us and it's only fair we treat them right,' he said.

The 27-year-old says he has to be given all the necessary details, from the brand and price.

'I've never mastered all the details and so I need her to tell me so I don't buy what she won't like,' he said.


Allan Ikol, a gynaecologist based at Kenyatta Hospital, says frequent use of tampons can really alter the pH of the vagina, leading to bad odour and irritation of the skin.

'When one stays with the tampon for too long to, they may affect their pelvic, causing infertility issues in future,' he said.

'Make sure to remove your tampons after three hours to avoid damaging your pelvic."

Ikol warned that ladies who mishandle tampons are at risk of developing toxic shock syndrome.

This is a life-threatening illness caused by an infection with certain types of bacteria associated with tampon use.

"The illness is rare but it happens. Factors such as handling the tampon with dirty hands can lead to it," he said.

Chris Obwaka, a gynaecologist at Gilead's Women Centre, assures that tampons are generally safe if used properly.

He warned that for virgins, the tampons may stretch or partially tear the hymen.

Obwaka said there is no ideal sanitary towel for everyone, but when in doubt, women should consult their gynaecologist.

Some brands have visible warnings on their packs to warn buyers of possible side-effects, and the two doctors insisted that women should go through the warnings before buying any product.
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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Apr 29, 2019
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