Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya
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TOPIC: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya

Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 04 Oct 2011 17:53 #351

  • Doreen
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Dear Forum,

According to the Nation (dated 2.10.2011), one of the leading newspapers in Kenya, girls between the ages of 13-14 years are to receive free sanitary towels, starting from January 2012 in Kenya.

Here is the information:
www.nation.co.ke/News/Girls+to+get+sanit...102j0dn/-/index.html

The Education Permanent Secretary James ole Kiyiapi said the initial allocation of Sh300 million would only cater for 500,000 girls, yet the ministry targeted a million students. Education secretary George Godia said there were areas where girls missed school for up to five days a month when they were experiencing menstruation. Education assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny said recently Sh1.3 billion more was needed to roll out the programme nationally.

An estimated 2.7 million girls aged between nine and 18 years need sanitary towels.

Although the government is aware of the importance of ensuring girl child education, their approach raises a lot of questions regarding sustainability. What will happen next year? Will the government have the financial resources to allocate money for sanitary towels again especially with the upcoming elections? Why is the government only treating the symptom and not the disease? Are there any measures that have been taken to incorporate disposal of the sanitary towels, awareness raising on alternative methods to address the challenges of MHM? Has the Ministry of Education also thought of incorporating menstrual management guidance books such as the one from Marni Sommer (Growth and changes, Vipindi vya Maisha) which can be found here: www.susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbk...p;type=2&id=1150 and or Annie Kanyembas book (Growing up in school) which can be found here: www.susana.org/lang-en/library?view=ccbk...p;type=2&id=1220

What about the girls above 14 years who will not receive anything?

I am disappointed that the government has not realised that there is a plethora of issues here that need to be analysed and brought into the forefront. It would be very interesting for me to know your thoughts and suggestions for the next steps e.g. in terms of how NGOs, governments and civil societies can address the challenges of MHM sustainably.

Please do post your thoughts about this.

Thanks and best regards

Doreen
Doreen Mbalo
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GIZ Water Sector Reform Programme
Nairobi, Kenya
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Last Edit: 27 Oct 2011 22:48 by Doreen.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 24 Nov 2011 10:48 #647

  • galma
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thanks alot Doreen.this issue needs a big forum to disscuss.am zeinab from Kenya.three days ago i had a training with youths from my area of work.i was so astonined by what i heard.i had groups of girls and ladies age between 14 to 20 years.it was so sad that about 80% didnt know how to use normal pads.i shed tears but that can help i took personal intiative to buy pads and pants to demostrate how to use it.we have to create awareness.just provinding cant help.we have to do something staring from personal level.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 05 Jan 2012 17:20 #827

  • inajurga
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Hi Doreen
thanks for sharing this news!

I foremost welcome this initiative, showing that Kenya is really one of the most advanced countries to adress MHM and bringing it to attention.

i do share all your concerns in terms of sustainability, funding, education and disposal (which is integral part if the "management"). And the same concern i always have when reading about international aid NGOs/Foundations handing out free materials.
But its a start on large scale, and by handing out sanitary towels, it is a mean for "educating" girls.

Are you based in Nairobi? Why dont you contact the Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Inter-Agency Coordination Committee (ICC) who has a school WASH sub group (i think the later is led by Netwas), so they might be able to explain more behind the sheme and the support /concerns/ discussions by the sector partners.


actually there is a similar scheme in india. www.medindia.net/news/Tamil-Nadu-CM-Orde...al-Areas-92922-1.htm
But rumour has that this sheme is actually benfitting huge private companies, and eventually not the self-help women groups, who produces the napkings locally.

Best greetings,
INA -wsscc
Head of WASH in Schools
WASH United
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Last Edit: 05 Jan 2012 17:23 by inajurga.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 05 Jan 2012 19:38 #828

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Dear Ina,

You are right! The provision of sanitary towels in Kenya by the government is a positive step and assures Kenyan girls and women that the government is willing to make a change and to ensure that the girl child stays in school(where she belongs)

My scepticism arises from the sustainability aspect.

I am meeting more and more women here in Nairobi who inform me that they can’t afford sanitary towels. One head teacher from a school in a low income urban area told me that she knows that many of the girls sell their bodies to get money for necessities such as towels. Therefore when girls and women from developed countries are finding "the right pads to suit their needs", many poor girls are tearing up little pieces of sponges from their mattresses and using pieces of old jeans and clothes.

When I hear such stories, my first thought is how can we ensure that the problem is solved with affordable alternative sustainable solutions?

Yes I commend the government for allocating funds for towels to some schools, however there is a plethora of other factors that need to be symbiotically addressed to ensure sustainable MHM and to ensure that the issue is dealt with once and for all. Quick fixes should be a thing of the past. What will happen in 10, 15 years? Are we still going to be talking about the same issues? I would not want that!

Especially now that we see that the government is understanding the level of the problem, this is the time, we should raise our voices and bring this issue into the forefront and say YES! we acknowledge the governments assistance and support but let us approach this issue holistically to ensure that long term solutions are implemented for girls and women in Kenya.

Yes I am currently based in Nairobi and would be happy to contact the Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Inter-Agency Coordination Committee (I have seen the contact details on their website)Thank you for the information! I will also point them to the MHM section of the forum because I believe that discussions navigating around MHM are crucial and indespensable in ensuring that the issue is addressed holistically.

Thank you for your comments. I will keep you informed and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Best regards

Doreen
Doreen Mbalo
Programme Advisor
GIZ Water Sector Reform Programme
Nairobi, Kenya
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Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 06 Jan 2012 13:49 #837

  • inajurga
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Hi Doreen

looking forward to the feedback from the ICC group, particularly if the campaign includes education, safe disposal of pads, and financing..

While i am working right now on a resource compilation on MHM, i was really suprised to see that in Kenya there are really quiete a number of projects around MHM, more than in any other country apart of India.They are mainly promoting reusable/ washable sanitary pads (locally produced by tailor women) and also there a number of projects wich donates Sanitary Pads to girls (from abroad or through donations via website fora)

Will share here the file once finished.

Greetings
INA
Head of WASH in Schools
WASH United
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Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 07 Jan 2012 00:10 #842

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Dear Doreen,

Interesting discussion between you and Ina and Juergen (on the incinerator issue).
Could you perhaps give a little bullet point list regarding which other issues exactly you have in mind here?

Yes I commend the government for allocating funds for towels to some schools, however there is a plethora of other factors that need to be symbiotically addressed to ensure sustainable MHM and to ensure that the issue is dealt with once and for all.

Actually I can't help thinking that surely the silicone menstrual cups also have an important role to play in the mix of options. Yes, I know that menstrual cups are not for every woman. But at least a certain percentage will probably enjoy them in the end (like I do) - maybe 5, 10, 20%? Who knows. More use of menstrual cups will mean less expenditure needed for those pads (if the government really plans to provide them for free for school girls) and also less incinerators needed (the same single menstrual cup can be used for many years and hence no waste production).

I really think there is a break-through, paradigm shift ahead of us with the menstrual cups (whilst at the same time acknowledging - like Maxie did in her posting on this forum - that they are not for everyone, not everyone will like them, as they need to be inserted). Anyhow, time will tell.

Regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Last Edit: 07 Jan 2012 00:12 by muench.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 07 Jan 2012 01:26 #843

  • jacksim
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Hello Doreen,

To be sustainable and scalable, the pads can be low cost but need to be paid for and operated as a business.
Can you tell me:
- in terms of US$, how much is an affordable price point to deisgn the solution at for the pads per use
- how many pads does a lady need per menstrual cycle each month: Maximum and minimum number of pieces
- Is a washable pad (say 50 times before disposal) at low cost a viable option?

I think giving pads is not sustainable nor scalable.

Best to have business models but we can design it to be very cheap.

Jack Sim
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Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 07 Jan 2012 21:32 #847

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What about biodegradable pads like the JaniPad www.janipad.com/ or the Maka Pads www.ugpulse.com/business/makapads-makere...ary-pads/549/ug.aspx ? Is the GoK aware of such approaches? Who are the donors that finance this? And which company(ies) will supply them?

My other question is probably from a male perspective: what have they used in the past before mattresses where invented? Folded cloth? And before that? Or nothing at all?

Else I am with all of you - a sustainable solution should not be based on donations. But this happening in EAK actually doesn't surprise me any more. In an ideal world, I am voting for a solution based on biodegradble / upcycling-capable pads which generate a revenue instead of just "waste" which is often handled as such (so that the most plausible solution often only is the use of incinerators which don't even make use of the thermal energy contained within the used material). I.e. a peepoo system for such pads where the reuse is the driving force and not the "i have a problem and need to fix it"-landfill-or-incinerator-approach.
Juergen Eichholz
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Last Edit: 07 Jan 2012 21:53 by jkeichholz.
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Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 07 Jan 2012 22:56 #848

  • inajurga
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hi all

1. on technology_ there are commercial pads, washable pads, tampons, and cups-
well , too my knowledge tampons and cups are not favoured widely in many countries (trying to find tampons several years back in china was really difficult!). so i am interested if the cup will have a market chance.

in the end the consumer chooses what is convenient and affordable and eventually also marketed well.
therefore i am always sceptical abt "one solution fits all- "projects"... but agree from a business perspective a market research is obligatory.

2. on price: jack, i am trying to find one presentation but will only have it on Monday- but zannaa.org has done some retail price research for their reusable pads apparently (recently they have received funds by Gates to scale up).
another step has been that Government in Kenya agreed in 2008 (or earlier?) to reduce the tax from 16% to 5% to make sanitary pads more affordable. Yet it seems this hasnt still not improved affordability www.kenyaforum.net/?p=378


3. on history: Juergen: hahaha, yes, sometimes sanitary pads can also feel like matrassess.
very interesting is this website www.mum.org/ the "Museum of Menstruation and women health". that has also some collected history on your question: www.mum.org/pastgerm.htm


4: on reuse: well, considering that a women - with access to sanitary products- throws away 10 – 15,000 tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime.
that has been actually the big arguement for using cups or reusable/washable pads for a lot women in europe / america.
there is even a petition about it www.thepetitionsite.com/7/help-prevent-w...sable-sanitary-pads/
for jani -pads, i understood its a design research foremost, and that they are eventually going to a stage of actual production.

well, i just stumbled over an apparently degradable sanitary pad collection system www.terracyclic.com/4nz-bio-friendly.html but that can be easily done with pee&poo i assume. as long there is no plastic......
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Last Edit: 07 Jan 2012 23:00 by inajurga.
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Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 08 Jan 2012 11:10 #850

  • muench
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Thanks for these contributions, I am learning so much here!

To Jack:
It is a very valid point that you raise. Just one thing I am wondering: in school toilets we would expect that the toilet paper is provided for free (at least in industrialised countries). It means the toilet paper is provided via tax for public schools, or via school fees for private schools. Would this be an argument then that at least school girls, during the school day, should perhaps have access to free pads if they need them? Mind you, the practicalities of this could be difficult:
a) girls might be too embarrassed to ask for the free pads which they are entitled to
b) girls might take pads home for the their sisters, mothers and friends if the pads are freely available at school.
Hmmm, so maybe better to ensure they are cheap enough to be affordable?

To Ina:
That website on the museum of menstrual health is really interesting. I read the part on history, very fascinating.
What is somehow puzzling/disturbing is that conditions which were common in Europe 100-200 years ago are now still commmon amongst the poor in developing countries (this e.g. also applies to high child mortality).

What I also found very interesting was this paragraph, which - I think - is also relatively applicable to the conditions of poor in developing countries (am I right?):

Keep in mind that prior to the 20th century, European and American women menstruated infrequently compared with today. They
  • started menstruating later, frequently in the mid to late teens, and stopped earlier, if they lived long enough to experience menopause, thus creating a shorter time for menstruation
  • married earlier, legitimizing the production of children, which reduced menstruation
  • had more children, and used less contraception, stopping menstruation for long periods
  • breast fed their children longer (and more often), which usually stopped menstruation
  • were more likely to be under- and malnourished or sick, or any combination thereof, which can stop menstruation
  • died earlier - stopping it dead


These points apply to millions of women today.
It's possible that women attained adulthood and gave birth to children, but never menstruated.


Thanks again for providing this stimulating discussion, and it is great that it is no longer a "female only" discussion (thanks e.g. to Juergen and Jack). This is something that we should tackle together - men and women - since we are all part of the same society and families.

Regards,
Elisabeth
Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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Last Edit: 08 Jan 2012 11:15 by muench.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 09 Jan 2012 10:03 #852

  • inajurga
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Dear all

and espeically Jack:
attached 2 presentations that researched preception and price on sanitary pads.

1. Kenya: use and preceptions of reusable sanitary pads. Unfortunately it does not include any price discussions.
2. India: where a real market research on price and pakage size has been done

In general, a lot of girls said, that they use their pads for a longer time - up to 8 h- because the time between walking from home, in school, walking back. That is probably due to lack of disposal facilities at school, shame, and availablilty of pads there. Maybe also affordability is an issue.

Looking forward if you have similar resources/research and could share it.

The ones who actually would have the best figures are the commercial companies

Elisabeth, i dont know how they will organise the handing out. but for example in India schools installed vending + disposal machines . but your mark b) might be relevant.


Best,
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Last Edit: 09 Jan 2012 10:06 by inajurga.

Re: Free sanitary towels for girls in Kenya 09 Jan 2012 13:21 #855

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Dear Doreen and all,

thanks for the information from Kenya.
I know from South Africa that Jacob Zuma promised last year the government would provide free sanitary towels to women and girls who cannot afford them. How is the status in SA? Are there any experiences already from there?

Claudia
WECF - Water and Sanitation Specialist
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