School going girls in Kenya will now have to be provided with free sanitary wear in schools following President Uhuru Kenyatta’s signing the Basic Education Amendment Bill (2016) among eight other bills at State House yesterday.
The Act was earlier amended by parliament to make it mandatory for the government to supply schoolgirls with sanitary towels. School girls have been having difficulties accessing sanitary towels particularly in rural areas, and this was negatively affecting their access to education.
Child rights groups have said many girls in the country skip at least four days a month of school because they cannot afford sanitary pads and want to avoid embarrassment. A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. This could be equal to a fifth of a given school year.
In May this year, Equal Times reported that according to Celeste Mergens, founder of the US charity Days for Girls International, in Uganda and Kenya women absorb period blood using leaves, mattress stuffing or feathers. Her organisation has been addressing the issue by helping women set up small businesses that make and sell reusable pads and menstrual hygiene management kits using locally available materials.
The passing of the law is a good development that will ease one of the major barriers girls face in an attempt to get an education. About ten years ago, Kenya repealed the tax on sanitary pads and tampons, earning global praise.
The Basic Education Amendment Act amends the basic education Act placing the responsibility of providing free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution and has reached puberty, on the government.
The news, released on the President’s s official website also states that the law says the government shall provide a safe and environmental sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels. 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.
It helps that several civil society organisations have also been helping to ensure that girls stay in school through assisting government with the provision of sanitary wear. If all African governments emulate this, particularly in Southern Africa were the situation is dire, Africa can achieve sustainable development goal number 4, quality education for all through promoting life-long learning.