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Celebrate Solutions: Kenya to Spend $3.4 Million to Give Free Sanitary Pads to School Girls

By: Rati Bishnoi, Special Projects Intern at Women Deliver

kenya_girl.JPGThe Kenyan finance ministry this month announced plans to allocate $3.4 million in the current fiscal budget to provide free sanitary pads to school girls in an effort to remove a major barrier to education in the east African nation.

No choice but to forgo an education
Kenyan girls who lack access to effective and affordable sanitary pads miss an estimated 45 days or 9 weeks of school per year or dropout of school altogether, according to a survey by Human Relations Trust, an NGO focused on needs of African girls. A box of eight sanitary pads costs 100 shillings or $1.50 plus tax in Kenya. For girls who do continue going to school, make-shift pads, such as those made from tissue paper, rags, leaves, and cow dung are uncomfortable and ineffective causing girls to be distressed and distracted. Worse still, schools usually lack sanitary supplies, proper water supplies for girls needing to change sanitary pads, and a disposal system. As a result, learning suffers and girls continue to fall behind in their education as insecurity and low self-confidence set in.

Across the world, the natural process of menstruation becomes an obstacle to learning and education that has long-lasting effects for women, their families, and their communities. For example, girls with little or no education are up to six times more likely to be married as children than girls with secondary schooling. In addition, girls who give birth before turning 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth and give birth to more children.

A policy that fits girls’ specific needs
The Kenyan government’s progressive policy is a result of persistent pressure from women parliamentarians and a coalition of civil society organizations who believe providing free sanitary pads will help girls move one step closer to realizing their human rights and will have significant educational and social benefits for Kenyan society. According to a study published last year by Linda Scott of Oxford University’s Said Business School, the absenteeism rate of Ghanaian school girls who received free sanitary pads along with an educational lesson about menstruation and hygiene was more than 50 percent lower than girls who did not get the intervention (9 percent compared to 21 percent). Girls also reported that they were able to concentrate better, felt confident, and participated more.

The policy is one attempt by the Kenyan government to meet Millennium Development Goal 2, achieving universal primary school enrollment by 2015. So far, the government has devoted 7 percent of GDP to meet this goal and is allocating $19 million for school feeding programs, Wycliffe Oparanya, Kenya’s minister for planning, national development, and vision. It is also one of the first examples of the Kenyan government attempting gender-responsive budgeting to meet the distinctive needs of men and women, according to Jacinta Nyachae, executive director of the Kenya Aids Law Project. However, some advocates are calling for close tracking and monitoring of these funds as rampant corruption remains a big concern in the nation.

Photo by Janna Oberdorf

Entry Comments

    • Aug 01
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    It amazes me that we can live in a world with so much disparities between the haves and have nots.  To think that a girl could loose her opportunity for an education due to something as commonplace as menstruation is disheartening.  The lack of education can become a snowball effect, severely limiting the opportunities and choices one can expect in their lifetime.  I am glad to see that Kenya is taking a closer look at the needs of its citizens, especially those who are at a disadvantage, due to no fault of their own.  It shows that sometimes, by offering small assistance in the right areas, there can be substantial payoffs for those whom you are trying to help down the line.

    • Aug 01
    • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    It amazes me that we can live in a world with so much disparities between the haves and have nots.  To think a girl could loose her opportunty for an education due to something as commonplace and unavoidable as menstruation is disheartening.  The lack of education can become a snowball effect, severly limiting the opportunity and choices one can expect in their lifetime.  I am glad to see that Kenya is taking a closer look at the needs of its citizens, especially those who are at a disadvantage, due to no fault of their own.  It shows that sometimes, by offering small assistance in the right area, there can be substantial payoffs down the line.

  1. New Study of Sustainable Sanitary Technologies Announced @proflindascott http://www.doublexeconomy.com/blog/

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