Almost half a million Kenyan school girls have been given access to free sanitary towels through a State initiative supported by UN Women.
The initiative is a great leap forward in a country where many girls miss up to five days of school every month because of their menstrual cycle. With almost half of Kenya’s population living on less than a dollar a day, a pack of sanitary towels is more than most families can afford. As a result, girls often skip school to avoid humiliation.
According to the outgoing Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi, the beneficiaries have been selected from among 4,114 schools across the country, from class levels four to eight. He said that the Ministry is committed to supporting young girls to overcome barriers in education.
“These challenges range from obsolete cultural practices and increasingly, those related to poverty,” he said. He indicated that provision of the sanitary towels would greatly improve the school completion rates of girls in vulnerable communities.
“We also invite corporate organizations and private individuals to join in this endeavor,” he added.
The Government allocated 3.34 million dollars in its 2011-2012 budget to the initiative. The allocation followed a pledge made in May last year by the Government at a roundtable meeting organized by UN Women, to push for implementation of the gender equality and equity principles in the new Constitution.
Sanitary towels shall be distributed to 443,858 girls in some 25 districts in Rift Valley; 11 districts in Coast Province; as well as Nyanza Province and schools in the Eastern and North Eastern provinces, and western and central Nairobi. The beneficiaries were identified based on the national poverty index, on arid and semi-arid land characteristics, a gender parity index, and from reports provided by Provincial Directors of Education.