By Liz Busisa
The ‘Period of Shame’ is slowly becoming a thing of the past for the over 2.5 million Kenyan girls who have reached the age of puberty. Those who feared skipping school and even those girls who used to skip school because of this period can worry no more because the government has come to their rescue. The Ministry of Education stated that for every girl who missed 4 days of school in a month misses 2 weeks of learning in a school term and 6 weeks in an academic year, a statistic that is very detrimental to the education of that girl. With the amendment of the Basic Education Act 2016, Parliament introduced amendments that were passed to provide a long term solution for girls in their puberty.
The Basic Education (Amendment) Act 2017 that was signed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in June this year seeks to completely correct this statistic. This Act amends certain sections of the Basic Education Act, 2013 which is the principal Act. Section 39 has been amended to include a clause that entitles the girls to free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels for every girl child who has reached puberty and is enrolled in a public basic education institution and to provide environmentally safe mechanisms for the disposal of these sanitary towels. Section 88 of the act has also been amended to include having conditional capitation funds to facilitate the acquisition of sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child.
Education being an important subject in the Kenyan society, this is a very bold move by the government in promoting the education of the girl child and ensuring that they stay in school. These amendments also contribute to improving the health of the girl child by ensuring that the sanitary towels are properly disposed.
This Act supports the initiatives of organizations like the Inua Dada Foundation and Initiative for the African Girl Child (IAGC) which is devoted to keep the girl child in school by providing quality sanitary towels. An initiative sponsored by IAGC of girls in Kabarnet from Salawa Primary School sought to provide sanitary towels to the girls to keep them in school full time. The reason behind this is that very many girls were dropping out of school because they lacked sanitary towels during their menstruation periods. Sanitary towels were considered a luxury for those who could afford it and for those who did not had to stay home during this period and it greatly affected their studies. This caused the menstruation period to be dabbed Period of Shame because no girl would want to show their face in school after this period since most of her schoolmates including teachers knew the reason why she stayed home for a couple of days.
The amendments to the Act can be said to be the silver lining in the clouds for girls all over the country who cannot stay in school because they are unable to afford them. We commend the government for this effort made to empower the girl child and ensure she stays in school. We therefore appeal to the government and other relevant stakeholders to have in place legislation that push for the protection of the rights of all children in the country in all fields concerning them. We also urge the government to have a budget line that is adequately resourced to cover for the purchase and consistent distribution of sanitary towels across the country. In addition, we urge the government to set up a concrete implementation mechanism to ensure that these amendments are as practical as possible. Suffice it to say, this puts an end to the psychological trauma that girls have to face during this period.
Liz Busisa is a Child and Legal Policy reporter at Mtoto News
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