By Khadijah Mbesa
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a person dies due to suicide every 40 seconds in the world.
Tragedy struck a family in Bomet county when their 14-year-old girl hanged herself after being chided and humiliated by a female teacher because of accidentally messing her clothes during her period.
The school-girl, Jackeline Chepng’eno, from Kabiang’ek primary school, got her menstruation but due to lack of proper material to hold the flow, her skirt ended sand glued leaking through her uniform. This resulted to teacher ridiculing her in the presence of other pupils, leaving the class six student broken as she cried towards home.
On arriving home, her dear mother asked her to fetch water, clean herself and head back to school which is exactly what Jackeline did, although her mind was already made up to not deal with the situation. Miss Chepkurui did not imagine that it would be the last time to see her daughter because later that evening, she was found hanging dead on a tree by the river.
According to Standard Digital, the mother said her daughter’s periods began that fateful Friday September 7 while in school and she was sent outside of the classroom, a statement backed up by her classmates. Chepkurui said she had no pads to use during that time.
“She had nothing to use as a pad. When the blood stained her clothes, she was told to leave the classroom and stand outside,” she said.
The outrage of more than 200 parents and relatives was justified as they stormed into the school on Tuesday morning demanding the arrest of the female teacher, because due to her bullying a family lost a child. The parents carrying twigs demanded the arrest of the teacher whom they could not understand her behavior being a woman. During the protest some women were arrested while they caused a stand-still to the normal running of classes.
According to Konoin OCPD Alex Shikondi, the girl left the school at about 10am and was later found dead without leaving a note explaining the reasons to her decision. Meanwhile, the head teacher made no comments saying the matter was still under investigation, therefore he was not at liberty to comment on the matter.
The issue was brought upon by lack of sanitary products, which as per the Basic Education Act a responsibility of the government to provide pads and proper safe disposal ways. This young girl is one among thousands of girls in Kenya who do not have access to adequate, quality sanitary towels to push them through the menstruation period. This case shows the existence of a gap at the level of implementation of policies. Perhaps the girl and the other students have never received these government-issued pads, or the family could barely afford a packet of pads for the teenager to use.
Cases of children committing suicide have been rising and bullying is playing the number 1 role. It is very sad and quite unfortunate that on the week of World Suicide Prevention Day, one child’s dreams and ambitions went down the drain because of shaming and bullying. As a society we need to know better and we have to do better by children in this and the future generations to come. Periods are not a choice but part of the normal growth of a woman and no one should be shamed for that.
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world since 2003.
As stated by statistics, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death among children between the ages of 10 and 14. In Canada in 2009, there were 25 recorded suicidal deaths of children aged 10-14. The rate of suicide was 1.3 per 100,000.This implies that children aged 10-14 have high risks of committing suicide, which is mostly caused by depression and conversations about suicidal thoughts/plans as well as the hustle that comes with being a teenager.
The responsibility begins and lies with the parents to make sure that children are aware of the changes in their body as they grow into puberty. This creates a sense of acceptance and therefore regardless of what others say, they will be comfortable with who they are and embrace the changes. Ignorance and distance between parents and their kids makes it even more difficult for them to open up.
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