School girls who have reached puberty in public schools will receive free sanitary towels after President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Basic Education Amendment Bill (2016).
The Act places the responsibility of providing free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels on the government in order to reduce the number of girls missing school during their menstrual cycle.
The law says the government shall provide a safe and environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels.
It further states that the annual estimates shall make provisions for all the estimated expenditure for the financial year concerned and in particular shall provide conditional capitation funds to facilitate the acquisition of sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty.
A lot of teenage girls especially those coming from poor backgrounds are not in a position to afford sanitary towels that are used to control blood from soiling their clothes. Instead, they turn to unhygienic ways of managing the situation including using rags or even toilet paper when going to school. Some of them may carry so as to wrap it around their waists as a way of hiding their soiled uniforms.
According to a report from UNESCO, one in 10 African adolescent girls in remote areas miss school during their menses and eventually end up dropping out of school because of menstruation related issues. Studies have shown that many girls in Kenya miss between 3-5 days of school every month during their monthly periods due to lack of sanitary towels.
A girl without access to sanitary towels feels embarrassed, unhygienic and uncomfortable. She also tends to have low self-esteem and with that the confidence to interact with friends and classmates or even with teachers in the classroom is lost.
A girl absent from school for four days in 28 days loses 13 learning days equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term. In an academic year (nine months) a girl loses 39 learning days equivalent to six weeks of learning time. A girl in primary school between grades 6 and 8 (three years) loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks. Within the four years of high school a girl can lose 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning in high school.
With provision of free sanitary towels, adolescent girls will be able to attend school same as their male counterparts, the boys and thus leading to a conducive learning.
The government removed duty charged on raw materials used in production of sanitary pads in November last year, giving manufacturers a shot in the arm. Before that, raw materials used in the making of sanitary pads attracted value added tax (VAT) at 16 per cent and excise duties of 25 percent. This was despite sanitary pads being exempt from VAT and attracting zero excise duty.