By Winnie Kabintie
Over the weekend I together with a group of young professional ladies were facilitating a mentorship and Menstrual Health Management (MHM) session to a group of school girls hosted by a community-based organization in Kibra constituency for a school holiday program.
During the Menstrual Health Management session, the girls, who comprised of upper primary school pupils and high school students from diverse schools across the country, revealed that they do not get free sanitary towels as promised by the government.
“Are you guys serious? When was the last time you got pads in school and how many packets” I asked, and a chorus of “last year” filled the air!!
Uhuru Signs Law Providing Free Sanitary Towels
In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law The Basic Education Amendment Act, which provides for free sanitary towels for all girls who have reached puberty in the country’s public schools, in a move aimed at reducing the number of girls who miss days of school due to menstruation.
In the financial year 2018/19, Treasury allocated Sh460 million towards the National Free Sanitary Towel Programme, which is expected to cater for 3.7 million girls in public primary schools, special primary and secondary schools in the country.
The government would later issue tenders for the supply of the sanitary towels, a tender that has now been shrouded by controversy, with education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang featuring prominently in the saga.
Firm linked to Belio Kipsang Awarded Sh23 Million Sanitary Towels Tender
Mps on Tuesday put education PS Belio Kipsang to task to explain the circumstances in which companies, including one that is allegedly linked to him (Konyipad Construction), were awarded tenders to supply sanitary towels against the lowest bidders.
This follows the Auditor-General’s report for the financial year 2016/2017, which revealed that the Ministry of Education illegally awarded the sanitary towels tender to six companies, contrary to the Public Procurement Asset and Disposal Act. The six include Nexhom Africa, Imani Holdings, Paula Services, Rossaby Enterprises and Hossib Investments.
According to the MPs, Konyipad Construction, which was awarded a Sh 23 m tender to supply sanitary towels against the lowest bid of Sh19 million, shares the same address with another company owned by the education PS (Belion Construction).
Kipsang has since been directed to provide all documents showing the directors of Konyipad.
Rossaby Enterprises, which had quoted Sh49,574,575 was awarded the tender while the lowest bidder in the same category quoted Sh42,875,308.jsus a
Imani Holdings, quoted Sh32,11,125 and won the tender against the lowest bidder, (Sh30,173,202). Hassib Investments was also awarded the tender despite having a quotation of Sh23,952,150 against the lowest bid of Sh23,179,500, while Paula Services Company, which emerged number three during evaluation, was picked despite quoting Sh50,092,454 while the lowest bidder quoted the price of Sh40,185,590, leading to loss of Sh6,699,267.
In his report for the financial year 2016/2017, the Auditor-General said the move by the Ministry of Education to award the tender to the six companies was against the Public Procurement Asset and Disposal Act.
Dr Kipsang’ told the MPs that the tender was divided into eight lots in order to reserve some slots for the youth, women and persons with disability.
He further explained that Triple was awarded Lot Eight, which had the highest quantity of packets amounting to Sh,865,610 million.
What a Shame!!!
Studies have shown that many girls in Kenya miss up to a week of school every month during menstruation due to lack of sanitary towels.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, a girl absent from school for four days in 28 days (month) loses 13 learning days equivalent to two weeks of learning in every school term. In an academic year (nine months) a girl loses 39 learning days equivalent to six weeks of learning time.
Sh460 million Free Sanitary Towels Allocation
Early this month, Education CS George Magoha also raised an alarm about school girls not receiving the free sanitary towels.
Magoha said that since the National Free Sanitary Towel Programme is no longer in his docket, he has no idea how the money allocated was spent.
“Regrettably, the money to purchase these products is not under my control but I will still continue to go and check and I will shout about it,” Magoha was quoted by The Star Newspaper.
Data from the Ministry of Gender showed that 3,703,452 girls collectively received 14,813,810 packets of sanitary towels costing Sh420, 618,057 last year.
It’s bad enough that access to sanitary towels remains a major challenge to girls and women in the country and totally despicable when money meant to contain the crisis is mismanaged. The sanitary towels challenge cannot be overlooked and Kenya is unlikely to achieve the 2030 education and gender parity goals if we cannot get just this one thing right.