Nakuru County Government has rolled out distribution of sanitary towels to ensure girls have supply of the essential utility.
County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Youth, Sports, Gender, Culture and Social Services, Sylvia Onyango, said girls from all the 55 wards will benefit from the over 200,000 sanitary towels, in a campaign to reduce defilement cases associated with poor access to the items.
While unveiling the exercise at Shabab Grounds within Nakuru-West Sub-county, Ms Onyango indicated that the programme seeks to ensure over 70,000 girls have regular supplies of the towels, so that they are not lured into transactional sex to purchase the essential commodities due to economic hardships caused by Covid-19 economic aftershocks.
“We are targeting more than 500 primary schools where most of these girls’ parents and guardians lost their sources of livelihood due to the pandemic. Girls tend to miss school if they do not get sanitary pads whenever they need them,” said the CEC.
She revealed that the County Government was collecting data on teenage groups to guide it in policy formulation, adding that the free sanitary towel programme will continue even after schools close.
“Some girls, especially in remote areas, have gone to an extent of engaging in sex in exchange of sanitary towels. The programme is a major boost to our continuing programme aimed at covering all the girls in the County,” noted Ms Onyango.
Ms Veronica Ndegwa, a teacher from Heshima Primary School observed that in addition to delivering non-perishable food staples, hand sanitisers and soaps, menstrual products should be included in the packages by various organisations and government efforts.
She lamented that parents in far flung areas were not concerned about their girls’ menstrual health, noting that there was a huge need for pads in those areas.
“The donations come in handy because due to poverty, girls have not been getting pads and some of them are easily lured into immorality in return for money to buy the essentials,” said Ms Ndegwa.
She noted that whereas in most areas a packet of sanitary pads costs Sh. 100 most families were surviving on less than that per day.
“Access to sanitary towels remains a critical challenge for many young girls in Kenya due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Poverty means access to sanitary products is near-impossible for the majority of girls, particularly in slums and remote rural areas,” said the teacher.
Research by Menstrual Hygiene Day, a global advocacy platform for non-profit organisations and government agencies to promote menstrual health, shows that 65 per cent of women and girls in Kenya are unable to afford sanitary pads.
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), out of approximately five (5) million girls between the ages of 10 and 19 in Kenya, 2.6 million require support to obtain menstrual hygiene materials.
“Approximately 300,000 of them, owing to cultural practices, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, would require both sanitary towels and underwear at an estimated cost of Sh2.6 billion,” concludes the Report.
By Anne Mwale and Catherine Karanja