OPINION: Sanitary pads will encourage girls to stay in school

OPINION: Sanitary pads will encourage girls to stay in school

By Alvin Mwangi

According to the World Bank, At least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management.

Inadequate WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, particularly in public places, such as in schools, workplaces or health centers, can pose a major obstacle to women and girls.

According to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, school girls will receive sanitary pads from the government with an aim to keep girls in school and avoid absenteeism due to menstrual health needs.

Magoha has said that the government has provided Ksh. 470million for the purchase of sanitary pads which is expected to sustain the girls for nine months.

Figures from Kenya’s Ministry of Education (MoE) show that a girl in primary school loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks in a year during her menses.

Within four years of high school the same girl losses 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks of learning.

According to the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities and reasonable standards of sanitation.

Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is a crucial element of the School Health Policy, being important for dignity, gender equality and the human rights of women and girls.

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 pads has also been cited by various studies as one of the contributors of teenage pregnancies especially in poor households and in rural Kenya, when girls have to engage in risky sexual behaviors to access or buy pads.

Women and girls who experience challenges with Menstrual Hygiene Management will also experience negative effects on multiple areas of life; relevant to the human rights of women and girls, including in particular the rights to health, work and education, as well as gender equality.

The government through the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Affairs should intensify its efforts and help the vulnerable school-going young girls and women especially in informal settlements through the provision of sanitary products amidst COVID19 where most schools have been opened.

The Ministry of Education through Prof. Magoha should support in monitoring, evaluation and accountability of these products.

Alvin Mwangi is a sexual reproductive health advocate in Nairobi, Kenya