PROTECTING GIRLS FROM SHAME

Ministry told to streamline issuance of sanitary towels in schools

Lobby calls for more support for girls from disadvantaged households

In Summary

• The Centre for Women Empowerment in Technology said many girls are struggling to purchase the items.

• Many learners resort to using cloths and often miss classes to avoid embarrassment.

CWE-Tech co-founders Judy Makira and Eunice Owino issue dignity packs to pupils at Kiboi Primary School.
CWE-Tech co-founders Judy Makira and Eunice Owino issue dignity packs to pupils at Kiboi Primary School.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

An NGO has appealed to the government to streamline the issuance of sanitary towels in schools to support girls from poor families.

The Centre for Women Empowerment in Technology that specialises in matters concerning girls and women has said many girls are struggling to purchase sanitary pads and resort to using unsanitary items.

The government started a free distribution programme in 2017 after the President signed into law a Bill to amend the Basic Education Act that mandated the government to provide sanitary towels to every girl enrolled in a public school and has reached puberty.

But in 2019, Education CS George Magoha expressed concern that the programme had not met its target after random sampling indicated that many girls were not getting the vital item, despite the government disbursing sufficient funds for the scheme.

CWE-Tech’s co-founder Judy Makira said failure by the girls to acquire sanitary towels puts them at a disadvantage as they are forced to miss several classes every month.

“We have heard stories of girls using pieces of clothes which are not able to serve the purpose and end up embarrassing them which causes them to stay away from school,” Makira said.

Speaking at Kiboi Secondary School on Monday during as mentorship programme, Makira said should the programme work efficiently, it will make it possible for girls from poor families to continue with their studies uninterrupted.

She called upon the Ministry of Education to allocate sufficient funds and put structures in place that will ensure all the needy girls are reached.

“This is such a vital programme that has the potential to drastically improve their performance because they will no longer have to worry about their ‘time of the month’, she said.

Sources in the Education department in Murang’a told the Star the government still issues the sanitary towels but only to a few targeted and needy girls.

The source indicated that even though the programme is not consistent, it has provided towels to the girls even through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many girls in Murang’a have fallen pregnant after being lured with money for pads by men.

Makira highlighted the need for professionals to offer mentorship to schoolgirls, saying many are struggling with matters such as their sexuality.

“At Kiboi Primary School, we have seen pupils asking questions on subjects that they said they could not ask teachers or their guardians,” she said.

CWE-Tech provided all the pupils, both boys and girls, with a ‘dignity pack’ that included sanitary towels for girls, soap, underwear, torches, whistles, toothpaste, tooth brush, combs, petroleum jelly, tissue paper, shaving razor and a back pack.

In partnership with the United Nationals Population Fund (UNFP), the group will conduct mentorship programmes and issue the dignity pack to as many schools in Murang’a and Homa Bay counties as possible.

The organisation’s co-founder Eunice Owino, for her part, emphasised that the sanitary towels issued are reusable and could sustain the girls up to three years.

“We are carrying out Covid-19 back to school de-briefs with the support of UNFP because we understand that many students are disoriented after staying home for nine months,” she said.

CWE-Tech is targeting standards 7 and 8 pupils to help them focus on their studies, she noted.

“Next week, we will be in Homa Bay carrying out a similar exercise. Our main objective is to help students stabilise in schools and concentrate on learning,” she said.

CWE-Tech was formed in 2017 by the two tech-savvy educationists to promote and strengthen the capacity of women and girls through access and use of ICT in research and support activities in education, socio-economic empowerment and leadership.

Judy Makira, CWE-Tech co-founder, hands out dignity packs to pupils at Kiboi Primary School on Monday
Judy Makira, CWE-Tech co-founder, hands out dignity packs to pupils at Kiboi Primary School on Monday
Image: Alice Waithera