What you need to know:
- The cost of sanitary towels, coupled with a lack of access to clean and safe facilities, means that many girls are forced to miss school during menstruation.
- The government should take action to ensure that all girls and women have access to free sanitary towels.
Sanitary towels are a necessity for girls and women, yet for many in Kenya, they are an unaffordable luxury.
The cost of sanitary towels, coupled with a lack of access to clean and safe facilities, means that many girls are forced to miss school during menstruation.
It is estimated that 65 per cent of women and girls in Kenya cannot afford sanitary pads, according to a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
This is a significant barrier to the education and economic empowerment of girls and women.
The government of Kenya should take action to ensure that all girls and women have access to free sanitary towels.
This is not only a matter of basic human dignity but also of economic and social development. The many days women in poor rural areas fail to go out and work means a great loss to the economy.
When girls miss school, they fall behind in their studies and it becomes difficult for them to catch up, leading to poor results.
This often leads to a vicious cycle of poverty, as girls who miss school are less likely to perform well and proceed to the next level of education.
Many do not complete their basic education and are more likely to end up in early marriage or engage in risky behaviour.
Women who are unable to work during their menses lose out on wages and promotions, which can impact their long-term financial stability and independence.
This puts them at a disadvantage, compared to their male colleagues.
Providing free sanitary towels is an essential step towards gender equality in Kenya.
It will enable girls and women to participate fully in education and the economy.
It will also help to reduce period poverty and the stigma and shame that are widely associated with menstruation.
The government should work with non-governmental organisations and the private sector to ensure that all girls and women have access to free sanitary towels. This can be done through a range of measures, including the distribution of free sanitary towels in schools, clinics and community centres.
Another workable strategy would be to extend subsidies and other incentives to manufacturers of sanitary towels.
This would have the desirable effect of lowering the cost of sanitary towels. The government of Kenya must recognise that access to sanitary towels is a basic human right. It must ensure that all girls and women can access them without financial barriers.
By doing so, the country will be taking a crucial step towards gender equality, social development and economic empowerment.
Awuor Ephy, Homa Bay