The supply of free sanitary towels to schoolgirls in public primary schools is expected to kick off next week, according to an announcement by CS Education, Prof George Magoha.
Magoha has said that the government has provided Sh. 470million for the purchase of the Sanitary Towels, which are expected to sustain the girls for nine months.
This is obviously exciting news especially in the Gender Advocacy corridors and a major shot in the arm for girls in Kenya only that again this is Kenya (Sic), where corruption has eroded our values and watered down the gains of such notable dictums.
Uhuru Signs Law Providing Free Sanitary Towels
In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law The Basic Education Amendment Act, which provides for free sanitary towels for all girls who have reached puberty in the country’s public schools, in a move aimed at reducing the number of girls who miss days of school due to menstruation.
The legislation was historic and laudable coming at a time statistics showed that many girls in Kenya miss up to a week of school every month during menstruation due to lack of sanitary towels.
The free sanitary towels legislation saw Treasury allocate Sh460 million towards the National Free Sanitary Towel Programme in the financial year 2018/19. The amount was to cater for 3.7 million girls in public primary schools, special primary and secondary schools in the country and as in the norm, the government would later issue tenders for the supply.
The distribution of the free sanitary towels in schools would later be shrouded by controversy, with reports of illegal tenders as revealed by the General Auditor and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang, embarrassingly featured in the saga, allegedly after a firm linked to him was awarded a tender despite being the highest bidder.
The illegal tenders aside, it also turned out that, wrongly, the free sanitary towels were also not getting to schools and therefore girls were not benefiting from them. Education CS George Magoha would later raise an alarm over the lapse.
“Regrettably, the money to purchase these products is not under my control but I will still continue to go and check and I will shout about it,” Magoha said in a press briefing.
The National Free Sanitary Towel Programme was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs during the 2017/2018 financial year. The State Department for Gender is responsible for logistics, monitoring and evaluation for the entire project.
Kenya’s Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy
Kenya achieved yet another first on 28th May by launching the Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy and Strategy, as the world commemorated the Menstrual Hygiene Day, becoming the first country to develop a standalone MHM policy and strategy.
The policy and strategy documents provide an opportunity for increased prioritization of Menstrual Hygiene Management as well as a framework for policy implementation and clarification of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders.
Menstrual Health Management
Periods are difficult to manage and much worse when a woman does not have access to the requisite sanitary kits.
Poor Menstrual Hygiene Management is one of the key issues that end up affecting a girl’s self-esteem and lack of access to sanitary towels has also been cited by various studies, including a case study of Busia County, as one of the engenders of teenage pregnancies especially in poor households and in rural Kenya.
I hope that this time, with a Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy in the backdrop, the impact of the National Free Sanitary Towels Programme will be felt across the country and that the Sh 460 Billion will not remain another nice figure to flaunt on paper!!
Winnie Kabintie is a Gender Advocate and a Menstrual Health Champion
Sh 460 Million For Free Sanitary Towels, Illegal Tenders And Zero Pads For School Girls!