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UNICEF REPORT

Provision of sanitary facilities will help keep girls in school

When there are no sanitary facilities, girls prefer to stay home one week every month to avoid embarrassment

In Summary

• Girls from poor families miss 20 per cent of school days in a year due to lack of sanitary towels. 

• Schools should meet the recommended national standard girl-latrine ratio of 25:1. 

A pack of sanitary pads donated by well wishers to schools
MENSTRUAL HEALTH: A pack of sanitary pads donated by well wishers to schools
Image: File

United Nations Children’s Fund defines menstrual hygiene management as ‘Women and adolescent girls using a clean material to absorb or collect menstrual blood and that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary for the duration of the menstrual period’.

This includes the provision of safe, private, hygienic water and sanitation facilities for changing menstrual material and access to practical information on menstrual health management for adolescent girls in particular. Ministry of Education’s 2016 report revealed girls from poor families miss 20 per cent of school days in a year due to lack of sanitary towels.

The data indicated that a girl in primary school between Standards 6 and 8 can lose up to 18 weeks out of the 108 weeks; while those in high school can lose almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning. 

 

As a result, President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017 signed into law the Basic Education Amendment Act that states that the government will provide free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide an environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of sanitary towels. This was a great move. It, however, lacks adequate practicality as it does not live up to the definitions of Menstrual Hygiene Management as required by Unicef.

A situation analysis by Unicef, 2017, reports access to sanitation as a problem in many schools. There is a need for the government to scale up and ensure schools have adolescent-friendly latrines which are spacious and meet the recommended national standard girl-latrine ratio of 25:1 as well as provide adequate information on period management and reproductive health.