Due to ignorance and poverty, most of the affected girls use pieces of dirty rugs, cotton wool, leaves and paper, while some wash and recycle them. These practices, experts say, expose the girls to diseases and discomfort.
However, this will soon end for schoolgirls in Meru County who no longer have to worry about sanitary pads, thanks to the area Women’s Representative, Florence Kajuju’s philanthropic gesture.
Kajuju has pledged to cater for the estimated 30,000 girls from marginalised areas in Meru County by offering the vital products though the Florence Kajuju Foundation.
Speaking during the launch of the programme at Kenya Methodist University where more than 500 girls from primary schools in Imenti North, Tigania West and Buuri were given their packages, recently, Kajuju said the programme aimed at promoting the retention of girls in schools at all costs.
“The Foundation is taking care of the communal problems by providing sanitary towels to girls in the marginalised schools which have less chances of accessing the basic needs,” said Kajuju.
The programme has received immense support from other investors including KeMU, Marvel Five who are the manufacturers of the sanitary pads, several financial institutions, government agencies and private investors.
Kajuju reiterated that by empowering a girl, one empowers the whole nation adding that through the provision of sanitary pads to the girls, she is partly fulfilling her pledge to the people of Meru County.
“The programme will continue until all girls are retained in school since they can achieve the same as the boys and increase the number of the educated girls who can also take on leadership in all sectors of the country,” the MP said.
According to Kajuju, since the Government had budgeted for provision of sanitary towels in other parts of the country, through such initiatives leaders were supporting the Government’s activities where they could not reach.
At the same time she appealed to the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram, to release the more than 200 abducted school girls.
“They need to bring the girls back home to their parents. We need to be together as we fight for these girls so that they are retained in school,” said Kajuju. She added: “Boko Haram needs to know that their act does not make sense. They should bring back the girls and make their demands to the Government later.”
According to Prof. Alfred Mutema, Vice Chancellor Kenya Methodist University, the free pads programme will help increase the transition rate of girls who normally drop from school due to such challenges to secondary schools and into university.
Indeed, since 2011, the Finance Minister has been allocating funds from the national budget to provide for free national pads to schoolgirls. The initial amount was about KSh32 million ($4 million) which has increased over the years.
That development came after persistent pressure from the women’s movement as well as women parliamentarians who took the issue of girls’ absenteeism from school due to lack of the pads to the august House.
It was a campaign that left their male counterparts speechless, for such matters are rarely spoken about in public, let alone in Parliament.
In their persistent lobbying, the women MPs have brought to the fore a problem that could have continued to hinder girls access to education.
Meanwhile, several Non Governmental Organisations, like Saidia Dada Network Kenya, have also started programmes to address the issue.
The Network mainly targets the young girls and women who cannot afford to buy the sanitary pads. They are trained in various institutions, such as schools, churches and the community level on how to make the pads from locally available materials.
Thereafter, the home-made pads manufactured by the Network are donated to institutions like schools in the rural areas and in informal settlements in urban centres like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu among others and also to orphans in their respective homes.
Research has shown that the majority of school-going girls from poor family backgrounds usually skip attending classes when they are menstruating due to lack of sanitary pads.
This article was originally published in the