More Needs to be Done to Keep Kenyan Girls in School During Menstruation

By David Indeje / Published June 28, 2016 | 8:14 am



School fees

Since the year 2011, Kenya’s National treasury has been setting aside funds to provide free sanitary pads to school girls in public primary schools as its commitment for a gender-responsive budgeting at work.

For a long time in Kenya, limited access to safe affordable, convenient and appropriate methods for dealing with menstruation meant that the social and mental well-being of many adolescent girls was affected. Many would miss school when they had menses.

For girls, a major physiological change during adolescence is menstruation.

It should be noted that for a gender-responsive budget to be implemented, it took Kenyan women parliamentarians had to lobby to make significant difference in shaping and advancing the gender agenda.

Prof. Maria Nzomo paper, “Affirmative action impacts of women in political leadership in Kenya,” cites that key policy and legislative changes were made in favour of women, and sponsored by female MPs were enacted during the 9th and 10th parliament.

Key among them:  tax waivers for Sanitary Towels and baby diapers; passing into law of the Sexual Offences Bill, Children’s Act of 2002, the Political Parties review of the Employment Act of 2007, leading to an increase in maternity leave to four months (three months actual maternity leave and one month annual leave), and an increased focus on gender issues and HIV and AIDS, especially by the Minister of Health, who has been a woman since 2003.

In 2007, the persistent lobbying from the women parliamentarians, the government committed itself to set aside close to Sh340 million in the national budget for the tax free purchase of sanitary towels, to cater especially for poor female pupils and students, who were previously absent from school for five days each month due to lack of sanitary towels, resulting in poor school performance and high dropout rate.

Further, it led to public awareness and greater government sensitivity to women’s specific needs in budget allocation.

According to Proctor and Gamble, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary after launching the ‘Always Keeping Girls in School’ in 2006 programme to provide girls with free pads for each school term note that, “Young teenage girls (10-13) need more information, more education and more secure environment to talk about their period.”

Other players like the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya have continuously advocated for tax waiver on sanitary pads for school going girls. In 2004, the government had applied a zero-rate import duty on sanitary pads.

FIDA says, “Taxation of sanitary pads will undo the gains made towards elimination of imbalances between school going boys and girls, men and women.” A 2013 resolution by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) calls for the waiver of the tax.

“That partner states be urged to improve access, quality and affordability of sanitary pads in schools by abolishing tax imposed on sanitary napkins and by investing in production of low cost sanitary pads,” a part of the resolution reads.

In passing of the resolution, EALA was aware that school participation of girls in the region lagged behind the participation of boys in the higher forms of primary and secondary school, absenteeism leading to poor academic performance and subsequent dropping out of school completely ‘a major reason why gender disparities continue to persist despite deliberate government efforts and policies that encourage girls to fully enjoy equal rights and continue their studies as boys of same age group.’

On the other hand, Kenya’s Ministry of Education show that a girl in primary school loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks in a year during her menses.

The 2016/17 Financial Year budget has allocated is Sh0.4 billion similar to the 2015/2016 budget.

Thus, statistics from the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) show that the number of girls who sat for the examination increased from 437,228 in the year 2014 to 459,885 in the year 2015, an increase of 22,657 girls, representing 5.18 percent, while the boys increased from 443,258 in the year 2014 to 467,904 in 2015, an increase of 24,646 boys, representing 5.56 percent.

P&G state that in 2001, 500,000 girls in Kenya used to miss at least 4 school days or month as they are unable to afford sanitary pads.

However, being a private player in supporting the government’s initiatives, “Under the ‘Always Keeping Girls in School’ program, girls receive training on feminine hygiene, puberty and menstrual protection done by trained nurses.”

In its 10th Anniversary, 10,000 girls will benefit  by P&G donating 1 pack of Always for any purchase of an Always duo pack from June 11 to July 18 2016.

Read: Help a Girl Stay in School by Purchasing a Duo Pack of Always Sanitary Pads

“An estimated 600,000 girls in Kenya enter puberty every year experiencing changes as they transition into womanhood. P&G seeks to donate pads and pants to over 10,000 girls in class 7 and 8 students from selected needy schools in the year 16/17,” P&G states.

Through this initiative that begun in 2006, 78 percent of schools reached by the P&G Always Keeping Girls in School program have documented improved girls’ school attendance  and 68 percent of the girls reached are more comfortable to discuss sensitive topics.

 




About David Indeje

David Indeje is a writer and editor, with interests on how technology is changing journalism, government, Health, and Gender Development stories are his passion. Follow on Twitter @David_IndejeDavid can be reached on: (020) 528 0222 / Email: info@sokodirectory.com

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