Low-income girls need supply of sanitary pads — NGOs

West Pokot NGOs attribute absenteeism in mixed school to lack of pads.

In Summary

• Many shops don't sell pads, forcing girls to miss school.

• Many parents from marginalised counties don’t value pads as a basic need for girls.

Fujita Corporation staff pose with schoolgirls in Bangladesh slums in Mombasa
SANITARY PADS: Fujita Corporation staff pose with schoolgirls in Bangladesh slums in Mombasa
Image: FILE:

NGOs in West Pokot have urged the government to ensure schoolgirls have a constant supply of sanitary towels.

The leaders said many girls, especially from marginalised groups, miss school while they are on their periods because they have no proper way to manage hygiene.

Sometimes leaders organise an event and distribute pads, then nothing more happens. 

The leaders headed by World Vision girl child protection officer Teresa Cheptoo said many girls are missing and dropping out of school due to lack of sanitary towels.

She called on the government to ensure girls always go to school.

“For government to achieve Vision 2030, it needs to ensure girls, especially from marginalised counties, attend school fully.

Many parents support education but lack of sanitary towels will demoralise girls from furthering their studies because of discomfort and embarrassment," Cheptoo said.

She called on other parties to help in retaining girls in school.

“A girl misses school for 36 days in a school calendar if she has no ready supply of sanitary pads. This in turn affects her overall performance. We need to come on board as education stakeholders and help our girls,” Cheptoo said.

The officer said many parents have embraced education and have concentrated on basic needs such as  books, pens and other learning materials. 

“Many parents from marginalised counties don’t value pads as a basic need. As leaders we need to educate parents so girls can compete with boys on a level playing field," she said.

An officer from German NGO DSW Kenya, Fatma Bilhakim, called on all leaders to fighting backward cultural practices that hinder girls from accessing quality education.

Bilhakim said many schools in the marginalised counties are mixed and girls fear attending school during their menses fearing leakage in the presence of boys.

She said  it’s difficult to find a shop selling pads.

“In remote areas of this county it is hard to find a shop selling pads and this discourages many girls from attending school,” she said.

A teacher in one school, who didn’t want to be quoted, said they have formed a group called Inua Dada to help girls stay in school.

"Since I was appointed acting deputy, many girls have asked me to help them with pads. I talked to girls and female teachers so we can help girls," she said.

She said students and teachers who can afford it bring a packet of towels to her office to help others.

The initiative has retained many girls in the mixed day school.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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