President's diaper promise hangs in balance as Finance Bill amendments cause stir

Deputy President William Ruto leads other Kenya Kwanza luminaries during the coalition’s women charter conference at Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The Finance Bill had proposed an eco-levy of Sh150 per kilogramme of plastic packaging material, a result of which would be a rise in the cost of diapers.
  • The Parliamentary Committee on Finance and National Planning has since amended the proposal following Kenyans’ furious uproar.

In June 2022, then presidential candidate William Ruto promised new mothers a three-month free supply of diapers should he be elected.

Now, President Ruto is mute on his pledge. Worryingly, the Finance Bill, 2024, had proposed an eco-levy of Sh150 per kilogramme of plastic packaging material, a result of which would be a rise in the cost of diapers.

The Parliamentary Committee on Finance and National Planning has since amended the proposal following Kenyans’ furious uproar. The levy will now be imposed on imported finished products “that contribute to e-waste and thus harm the environment when they are no longer in use”.

Data on the total number of manufacturers of diapers in Kenya is scanty. However, from the Kenya Bureau of Standards’ website, 11 brands supplied by foreign firms have been approved to be in the market.

As of June 18, 2024, neither the government spokesperson, his deputy nor the office of the President's women rights adviser responded to the query of the status of Mr Ruto's promise to Kenyan mothers.

“We only hear of promises after promises but nothing comes out of it,” said Mary Makau, the organising secretary of Embu-based Mwangaza Women Rights Organisation in an earlier interview.

“We have been singing about the law on two-thirds gender principle, but where is it? There was the promise of free diapers. Where are they?”’ she asked.

During a women legislators’ forum dubbed Women Must Lead held on November 24, 2023, in Athi River, the leaders said Mr Ruto should be held accountable for his promises to women.

“Women should not be taken for a ride. Promising this and that because you want our votes then assume that was just it, is improper. Whatever he promised the women, let him deliver," said one-woman legislator.

Going by the 2019 Census, Kenya has an annual growth rate of 2.3 per cent. That means each year, 1,093,978 children are born. This comes to a minimum of 91,164 births every month.

That would cost the government Sh91,164,000 monthly, going by a minimum cost of Sh1,000 for a pack of 40 pieces.

For Esther Gathambi, a teenage mother in Mathare in Nairobi, a cash transfer is better than free diapers.

“Why should I be given diapers then go home sleep hungry? I’d rather they give me Sh50,000 to start a business. I’ll make my own money to buy diapers, and feed my child and myself,” she said.