Distribution of free sanitary pads to pupils, as is the policy in Kenya has no impact on school attendance.
“Neither sanitary pad distribution nor sex education, on their own or together, were sufficient to improve primary school attendance,” says Population Council, Kenya.
The council had engaged 3,489 Grade Seven girls in 140 schools in Magarini, Kaloleni and Ganze in Kilifi County at Kenya’s Coast for 18 months.
The girls were assigned to one of four groups: the first was control where they were not provided with anything; second group was provided with pads only; third group with sex education only and the final group with both pads and sex education.
“We found neither intervention component, alone or in combination, improved school attendance among girls in primary grade 7,” says the study team.
The study published in the journal of Reproductive Health in August 2021, says the findings are not that surprising.
“It is consistent with several recent studies examining the relationship between sanitary pad distribution and, or sex education on school attendance that also found no significant effect.”
Explaining the findings, the team of Karen Austrian, Beth Kangwana, Eunice Muthengi, and Erica Soler‑Hampejsek say menstruation is not a direct cause of school absenteeism.
The main causes of girls’ absenteeism in school, the authors say include poverty, lack of fees, low value for girls education and household instability.
None of these, the study says are addressed via access to sanitary pads or sex education.
“This paper supports the recent push to move away from a central focus on school attendance as the central outcome of menstrual health management (MHM) programmes.”
Kenya in 2017 enacted a law committing the government to provide free, sufficient, and quality sanitary pads to all girls in public schools.
The move was hailed by lobbyists as a major gain for girls’ education. “Now no girl will miss school again because of periods,” said Plan International.
The Kenya Menstrual Hygiene Management Policy 2019-2030 also emphasizes on the distribution of free sanitary pads to school girls as a tool for reducing absenteeism.
By Gatonye Gathura