NAIROBI and LONDON – Kenya’s decision to give free sanitary pads to schoolgirls is a momentous step for gender equality, says Plan International.
On Wednesday, the President of Kenya signed into law the Basic Education Amendment Act, which commits the government to providing “free, sufficient and quality” sanitary pads to girls in state schools. Girls supported by Plan International have been at the forefront of the campaign to make sanitary pads free. Joyce, 14, petitioned the government on International Day of the Girl last year, demanding action. Today, she says: “I am so happy that the government has listened to girls and is taking this step towards making Kenya a better place for all girls.
“It means so much to the many girls who have been using tissue paper or old clothes during their menstruation. Many girls in marginalized areas used to miss class because of their periods, but now they will never miss school again.”
Access to sanitary towels is a big challenge for girls who come from poor families in Kenya, with UNESCO estimating that around half of all school-age girls do not have access to sanitary pads.
Girls are prevented from participating in and attending school because they feel ashamed or “unclean”. There are many instances where girls drop out of school once they start their periods. Staying at home and being out of school leaves them even more vulnerable to other violations of their rights, such as child marriage.
That’s why the amendment to the education act is so significant, says Lennart Reinius, Plan International’s Acting Country Director in Kenya. “Menstruation is linked to girls’ dignity and has a tremendous impact on their access to education and performance in school, as girls will often miss days when they are menstruating,” says Mr. Reinius.
“This is a pioneering step which will ensure that more girls can secure their right to a quality education,” he says. “It also shows that when girls speak up, they can become champions of change.”
Plan International is urging for robust implementation of this plan to ensure that all girls, including those in marginalized and remote communities, can access free sanitary pads.
Mr. Reinius says: “The success of this great initiative will depend on adequate resourcing. This move demonstrates Kenya’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 4, which states that all boys and girls should be able to have a quality education. Hopefully this will set the scene for other nations to follow suit.”
NOTE TO EDITORS: Plan International Kenya Deputy Country Director Samuel Norgah is available for media interviews.
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Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan believes in the power and potential of every child. Working together with children, young people, supporters, and partners, Plan strives for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
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