, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 8 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Tuesday directed the Treasury to allocate Sh2.6 billion for sanitary towels in the next financial year.
Speaking during the launch of the Government of Kenya Primary Schools Sanitary Towels Programme in Nairobi, he said provision of sanitary towels should be treated as essential in financial allocations like other programmes.
“We want the government to factor in all the money as required so that girls can get sanitary towels. Only Sh2.5 billion is required, this is peanuts if we consider other areas where money has been provided… this is a directive,” he said.
The premier regretted that girls in Kenya do not have equal opportunities as boys in matters of education.
He said it was unacceptable that one of the main reasons why girls drop out of school is associated to lack of sanitary towels which makes them shy away from classes during their menstrual time.
He said it was demeaning for girls to stay at home, drop out of school and even get married at early stages just because of lack of sanitary pads.
“This is something that has to do with human dignity, to do with empowerment; to be able to participate in education on an equal footing with their male counterparts without having to be looked down upon when they are having their periods,” he asserted.
Studies have indicated that about 500,000 girls miss school every four days in a month due to lack of sanitary pads.
“This amounts to 10 to 25 percent of pupil-teacher contact time lost. It puts our girls at a disadvantage against their male counterparts. It affects their performance,” Odinga said.
Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo said unless the Sh2.6 billion was provided, 2.6 million girls will have their education affected due to lack of sanitary towels.
“About 300,000 of the girls especially in arid and semi arid areas will require additional wears in addition to sanitary towels,” he said.
Kilonzo said 443,858 needy girls in primary school were set to benefit from the programme.
The PM’s wife Ida Odinga lauded the move by the government saying it had given Kenyan girls a new beginning and a chance for them to attend classes regularly.
“This is what has been holding girls back in education, this must now come to an end, there will be need to drop out of school, or to have early marriages,” she said.