Kenya: Concerns As Sanitary Pads Project Moved From Ministry

Afripads, handed out in a kit that includes a carrying case, are credited with making girls feel comfortable coming to school when they have their period.
Afripads, handed out in a kit that includes a carrying case, are credited with making girls feel comfortable coming to school when they have their period.

The funds allocated to school girls’ sanitary pads programme have been moved from the Education to the Gender ministry in a move stakeholders fear may roll back the gains made in the five-year-old programme.

The approved budget for the financial year that started in July indicates that the Sh470 million set aside for sanitary towels will not be in the Basic Education department of the Ministry of Education any more.

Rather, it has been moved to the Gender Affairs department of the Public Service ministry.

DISRUPTION

The Gender and Youth Affairs Principal Secretary, Ms Mwanamaka Mabruki, confirmed the transfer on Friday but could not comment any further, directing the Sunday Nation instead to Ms Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of the ministry.

What worries sources at the Education ministry, who spoke with the Sunday Nation in confidence, is that the chain of command from the ministry chiefs to school heads, which has been ensuring effective distribution of the pads, will now be disrupted as head teachers do not report to the Gender ministry.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Mr Kennedy Buhere, a communications officer with the Education ministry, declined to comment on the matter.

Asked to explain the progress of the project so far, Mr Buhere said between May 2012 when then Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched it and today, the Treasury has pumped Sh1.9 billion into the programme and that 11.2 million girls – mostly in Standard Seven and Eight – have benefited.

The programme has been targeting girls in schools located at 82 former districts.

DISTRIBUTION
The schools were chosen with a bias to those in slums and arid areas.

Equally, a school’s location as per the National Poverty Index determined whether its pupils received the government-funded pads.

“Once the ministry is allocated the money, we do the tendering process.

“Whoever wins the award is the person who is to deliver or supply these sanitary towels up to the sub-county office,” Mr Buhere said, noting that eligible girls have been receiving a year’s supply of pads.

AMENDMENT

However, the amount of money set aside for the pads is expected to shoot up exponentially, the Daily Nation reports.

From July 7, when an amendment to the Basic Education Act came into effect, it is now compulsory for the government to provide sanitary pads to all girls in primary and secondary schools.

Ironically, the person compelled by the amendment to ensure all school girls receive sanitary towels is the Education Cabinet Secretary and it remains to be seen how this will be implemented with funds under the Gender docket.

BUDGET

The new Act says: “It shall be the duty of the Cabinet Secretary to provide free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution who has reached puberty and provide a safe and environmentally sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels.”

It is the Education cabinet secretary who is also required to prepare budget estimates every year “to facilitate the acquisition of the sanitary pads”.

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