Nairobi — The perennial challenge of lack of free and sufficient sanitary towels among school-going girls could soon be mitigated if a proposed bill is passed into law.
Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba has sponsored a bill that calls for the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee that will ensure access to quality, free, and sufficient sanitary towels in public institutions for girls.
The draft bill proposes that the committee shall advise and offer coordination to the government on the provision of sanitary towels in all public institutions and correctional facilities to every woman registered in a public institution.
The Sanitary Towels Bill 2023 proposes the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the provision of Sanitary Towels to be composed of the chairperson and Principal Secretaries in charge of Gender, Basic Education, Correctional facilities, Higher Education, Vocational and Technical Training, Public Health, and the Attorney General.
Also on the committee will be the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Chairperson, Director General of Health, Council of Governors (CoG), Public Benefit Organizations (PBO), and one nominated by an organization in the private sector.
“The committee shall have powers to manage, control and administer the assets of the committee, receive any gifts, grants, donations or endowments made to the committee and approve the opening and closing of bank accounts of the Committee with the approval of the National Treasury,” reads part of the bill.
Orwoba’s bill proposes a secretariat; it will comprise the Secretary to the committee and such members of public officers subject to the approval of the committee.
“The committee may appoint such number of professional, technical and administrative staff for the committee as it may consider necessary for the discharge of its functions on such terms and conditions as the committee may determine in consultation with the relevant government agencies,” reads part of the bill.
The Sanitary Towels Bill 2023, proposes punitive measures for corrupt individuals who may try to rebrand and resell the pads through heavy fines and imprisonment of up to five years
“A person who rebrands or resell sanitary towels distributed by the committee commits and offence and in liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding Sh3million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both,” reads part of the bill.
The proposed law comes against a backdrop of an audit report that revealed that Sanitary towels provided by the government to school-going girls are of low quality, and easily fall off while in use.
Despite the provision of Free Basic Education, many girls continue to miss out on education due to absenteeism that is related to reproductive health issues as they are forced to stay away from school when they are not facilitated to manage their menstruation.
Studies have shown that girls from poor families miss 20% of school days in a year due to lack of sanitary towels.
Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that a girl that is absent from school for four days in 28 days (month) loses 13 learning days, equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term. In an academic year (nine months) a girl loses 39 learning days equivalent to six weeks of learning time.
A girl in primary school between grades 6 and 8 (three years) loses 18 learning weeks out of 108 weeks. Within the four years of high school, a girl can lose 156 learning days equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning.