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Sanitary pads: Rwanda follows Kenya's footsteps

Reproductive Health - By Jael Mboga and Fred Obura

The Sanitary Towels programme has been procuring and distributing sanitary towels to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Rwanda’s ministry of gender and Family Promotion recently tweeted scrapping off of tax on sanitary pads to make them more affordable.

The 18 per cent value-added tax was previously placed on the pads making them out of reach for some.

A pack of ten pads retails at over Sh100.

"Moving in the right direction, from now onwards, the Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability,' Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion-Rwanda said in a tweet.

In Kenya, the government repealed its value-added tax on pads and tampons in 2004 to lower the price consumers pay.

In addition, since 2011, the State has been budgeting about Sh300 million per year to distribute free sanitary pads in schools in low-income communities.

The Sanitary Towels programme has been procuring and distributing sanitary towels to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is estimated that the Treasury has pumped Sh1.9 billion into the programme and that has benefited 11.2 million girls.

The programme had previously been targeting girls in schools located in 82 former districts chosen from marginalised and slum areas.

The programme was transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs during the 2017/2018 financial year with a budget of Sh470 million.

However, access to sanitary towels is still a big challenge for many girls who come from poor families with UNESCO estimating that around half of all school-age girls do not have access to sanitary pads.

There has been a lot of debate on whether sanitary pads should be sold while some condom brands are freely issued.

The argument is that one chooses to have sex, but they do not choose whether to forego a month's menstrual cycle or not.

The discussion stirred controversy across the globe in September when a girl in Bomet County committed suicide after being period-shamed by her teacher. She had soiled her dress.

For many girls going through puberty, the age is a time riddled with challenges as the changes are more visible compared to the boys.

Girls deal with managing a menstrual cycle, broadening hips, a protruding chest, and in some cases, acne.

Many organisations have come out to support young girls to stay in school, with others teaching the girls about the cheaper reusable pads.

Under the tagline 'Keep Our Girls In School', groups have donated sanitary pads, including the reusable brands, to keep girls from missing out on school for a week on the average.

However, such acts leave a lot to be desired on the steps taken to address menstruation among young girls, especially in rural areas.

In the Bomet incident where the girl killed herself, a Teachers Service Commission report later showed that the school store had 72 pad packets.

The Education ministry in 2011 set up the Schools’ National Sanitary Towels project to improve girls’ participation and retention.

The programme involves setting aside a budget for sanitary pads provision every fiscal year.

But the question is whether the girls have access to the pads.

Population Council's Dr Beth Kangwana agrees that there is limited access to sanitary pads and adequate knowledge on sexual health, puberty and social support for the young girls.


Ministry of Education

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