One in 10 girls in the Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
This statistic is likely to vary with girls from the indigenous minorities who are disadvantaged in several ways. There is a wide gap between sexual and reproductive health needs for girls and the services that they receive.
They are vulnerable to health challenges as manifested in the higher rates of school drop outs leading to early pregnancy, early marriages, gender based violence and the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. The cultural norms also do not provide girls safe spaces to express themselves, share and learn on a wide range of issues that affect their everyday life.
The rights of the Kenyan child are human rights which are to be safeguarded meticulously.
Although the Kenyan Constitution does not expressly spel out the rights of the child, Chapter Four on Bill of Rights does provide for the protection of every Kenyan rights and freedoms including right to life, equality and freedom from discrimination, free from slavery, servitude and forced laboir,right to human dignity and privacy.
However, the Penal Code which defines the Penal system in Kenya particularly protects children, in that acts and omissions, which amount to child abuse, are classified as punishable offences.
Kenya has also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which mandates countries to protect children’s civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights.
Lack of access to information on menstrual hygiene management increases their vulnerability and finding sanitary towels is even the greater problem to these girls. Economic abilities of the families from which they come from are very low. Their parents have little to spare for necessities off the immediate needs basket.
The lack of adequate, accessible and adolescent friendly sexual and reproductive health services not only affect the educational and economic opportunities of present and future generations, but threaten their survival.
This is worrying considering that the world is working towards achieving quality education for the population and gender equality, the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since 2015 Ogiek Peoples' Development Program (OPDP) in partnership with Zana Africa Foundation has been running a sanitary towel distribution programme in which primary and secondary school girls from the indigenous minorities have been benefiting. It is a great achievement to the community and nation to have these girls remain in school throughout the learning period because their educational performance is directly related to their future contribution to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product.
Educating girls from the indigenous minorities would help narrow their communities’ marginalization gap as they will be the resources to eradicating poverty from the households, improving health lifestyle of the families and overall transform economies of their respective regions.
It is therefore significant that more support is awarded to projects that seek to empower girls from indigenous minorities’ communities through provision of sanitary towels.