For many girls in Africa, school is interrupted because of menstruation. This is due to lack of sanitary pads, lack of proper toilets as well as the stigma and shame surrounding menstrual hygiene.
The burden of purchasing sanitary products is on parents, or the girls themselves, usually with adverse consequences. Some private individuals and non-governmental organisations also fund and donate sanitary pads to schools and even hospitals.
The debate on menstrual health has been had in the parliaments in various countries, including Uganda, which said there was no money to implement such a program.
To this end, some countries have put in place laws and policies to ensure that this is a thing of the past. These countries are:
The province of Kwa Zulu Natal has early this year implemented the provision of free sanitary pads to girls to boost their school attendance. The Department of Education will ensure that each learner receives a pack every month from the principal or an official of the 3000 schools in the province.
In 2017, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Basic Education Amendment Act, which places the responsibility of providing ‘free sufficient and quality sanitary towels to every girl child registered and enrolled in a public basic education institution and has reached puberty’ on the government.
The law also requires the government to provide a safe and environmental sound mechanism for disposal of the sanitary towels.
Botswana also passed a motion in 2017 to provide sanitary products to schoolgirls in both state and private schools.
“Government provision of sanitary pads to all schools would improve access to education in a country where many could not afford sanitary products like pads,” said Member of Parliament Polson Majaga who tabled the motion.
— Botswana (@Botswana) August 2, 2017
Zambia also unveiled a program to provide free sanitary pads for girls in rural and peri-urban areas. In their 2017 budget, the program provided for 14,000 girls from vulnerable households in different districts.
“Our country like in many parts of Africa, reproductive health matters are treated as a taboo and with silence. This limits girls’ access to education as some fail to go to school due to lack of proper sanitary towels. In order to increase and retain attendance of girls in schools, Government will in 2017 commence distribution of free sanitary towels to girls in rural and peri-urban areas,” said the then finance minister Felix Mutati.