The Politics of Sanitary Towels for girls sexual and reproductive health

By Vera Shawiza / October 3, 2017

Ensuring that girls in Kenya reach their potential, it is critical to address issues that relate to sexual and reproductive health.

Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights issues are currently featured on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda by establishing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)–specific indicators to measure progress toward the SDG.

The goals and targets encompass access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, comprehensive sexuality education and the ability to make decisions about one’s own health.

Education is crucial because it enhances the life opportunities of women and their families.

Girl’s education is critically important not only for harnessing the nation’s human resource for development, but also for raising the self-esteem and confidence, and widening the life choices of females, their access to information and knowledge.

However, there have been challenges in the process of ensuring that girls are equally offered education same as their male counterparts.

These efforts have had a positive impact where girls have been able to secure job opportunities for themselves due to their hard work in school.

For instance, Kenya was ranked 18 in Africa and 145 in the 2016 report of the African Human Development Index.

The report focused on gender equality reviews the ongoing efforts of African countries to accelerate the pace of ensuring women’s empowerment through all spheres of society.

Consequently, it is saddening to hear of situations where adolescent girls are not able to attend school due to lack of access to sanitary towels.

This is one of the challenges that is being faced by school girls in Kenya, especially those from poor backgrounds.

According to the United Nation’s Education Agency, one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their period days. Some girls reportedly lose 20 percent of their education, for this reason, making them more likely to drop out of school altogether.

Recently, a story on one of the local channels where school girls are forced to offer themselves for sex to get money to purchase sanitary pads in Busia County.
The story was heartbreaking and emotional.

The story made me think of a number of issues affecting girls who have reached puberty.

I am not a girl but am aware of the challenges they go through.

The first thing I thought was the Basic Education Amendment Bill (2016) that was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in June.

The law compels the government to provide free sanitary towels to schoolgirls who have reached puberty as well as providing for sound disposal mechanisms for the same.

It was seen as the only remedy to cut on the absenteeism of girls from classes due to menstruation periods. This was after the Ministry of Education released data that indicated that for 4 days in 28 days of the month, a girl loses 13 learning days or 2 weeks of learning every school term. Where did the law go? When will be implemented?

According to the report released by FSG on Menstrual Health in Kenya, 65 percent of women and girls in Kenya are unable to afford sanitary pads.

The report says that significant barriers to a high-quality menstrual hygiene management persist across the country and remain a particular challenge for low-income women and girls.

It outlines that only 50 percent of girls in Kenya openly discuss menstrual issues at home with others treating the issue as a taboo. The report also found out that 2 out of three girls in rural areas receive pads from their sexual partners.

The case in Busia County is a representation of what is going in most rural parts of the country. The society has continuously ignored the issue but the effects are enormous.

Talking of politicians, while going through the Constitution of Kenya, I came across Article 97 (b) which says that the National Assembly shall consist of 47 women, each elected by the registered voters of single-member constituencies.

The main role of women representatives is to represent women as stipulated in Article 100 (a).

They are meant to promote the interests of women and girls in parliament within the counties they represent.

Further, to help in coming up with policies, laws, and regulations that would be used to uplift the lives of women and girls in the counties.

Where are they on the issue of sanitary towels? Why are they not asking questions about the implementation of the law?

About Vera Shawiza

Vera Shawiza is Soko Directory’s in-house journalist. Her zealous nature ensures that sufficient and relevant content is generated for the Soko Directory website and sourcing information from clients is easy as smooth sailing. Vera can be reached at: (020) 528 0222 or Email: [email protected]

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