Free sanitary towels for Kenya’s schoolgirls | ActionAid UK

Free sanitary towels are to be given by Kenya’s government to schoolgirls - this is a big step for girls’ rights to education. Read our response to this news, marking a major step forward for girls in Kenya. 

Purity, 13, and Abigail, 14, used to miss school in West Pokot, Kenya, because they couldn’t afford sanitary towels.
Purity, 13, and Abigail, 14, used to miss school in West Pokot, Kenya, because they couldn’t afford sanitary towels.

The Kenyan government has just announced that free sanitary towels are to be given by the government to schoolgirls across the country. 

This is a great step forward for Kenyan girls and their right to education, which is often damaged by the lack of access to sanitary products. 

“The Kenyan government is making a vital contribution to ensuring girls receive an education and are treated the same way as boys,” says Agnes Kola, National Women’s Rights Coordinator at ActionAid Kenya.

Lack of access to quality, free and sufficient sanitary products means many young girls drop out of school while on their period, putting them at greater risk of child marriage and getting pregnant at a younger age.”

One in 10 girls in Africa misses school when they have their period

It’s estimated that one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school when they have their period. And not having access to sanitary towels is just one barrier that girls face.

In Rwanda, ActionAid has built safe spaces for girls in nine schools.

These safe spaces are rooms run by a matron in a separate building away from the school, equipped with a toilet, a shower, sanitary products, spare clothes, and a private space to change and rest.

They ensure that girls don’t have to fear the embarrassment of stains on their clothes, and boys in their class bullying them about it, which stops them from going to school.

Menstrual Hygiene

Girls learning about their bodies and their rights

As well as providing sanitary towels and safe spaces in schools, ActionAid is working with local communities to provide safe environments where girls can ask questions about periods, sex and pregnancy, and become better informed about their own bodies and understand their rights.

This is crucial in tackling damaging taboos around menstruation that hold women and girls back. 

Abigail, one girl who benefitted from our programmes in Kenya, told us about some of the taboos that girls in her community face when they have their period.

“At home a girl on her periods is not allowed to touch utensils or even fetch water,” she said. 

She can only use the firewood and she has a specific plate and cup that she uses for her meals. This is bad because segregating you because of your periods will make you look alone and it gives you that impression that you are not wanted in a group.” 

At ActionAid we know that in addition to providing free sanitary pads (which we welcome and applaud), governments could be doing a great deal more around the world to make sure girls are not held back because of their period.

A regular donation from you could help support our work ending period poverty, shame and stigma for girls. Please donate now.

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Photo credits: Ashley Hamer /ActionAid, Jennifer Huxta/ActionAid