Uganda: Education Ministry Tasked to Budget for Free Sanitary Pads

14 November 2019

Parliament has tasked the Education and Sports Ministry to present a budget for the provision of free sanitary pads.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga issued the directive after the Minister for Presidency, Esther Mbayo, failed to state how much money government requires to fulfil President Yoweri Museveni's pledge to supply free sanitary pads to primary school girls.

Kadaga asked Mbayo to state clearly the number of girls who would receive the pads and how much is required to fulfill the pledge. Mbayo requested Parliament to task the Education Ministry to provide the details as the concerned ministry.

"Can we direct the clerk to write to the Minister of Education to quantify the number of girls who will need the sanitary pads in the primary schools first and then quantify the cost of the ordinary pads and that of reusable pads. And bring the information to this house, we discuss and take a decision," Kadaga guided.

Museveni pledged to provide school girls free sanitary pads during the 2016 election campaigns in West Nile. On Wednesday, the Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal sought an explanation as to when government would fulfill the presidential pledge.

In her response, Mbayo asked the House to use its appropriation role to allocate a budget for the provision of free pads. However, Mbayo said the Education Ministry would provide such details.

She further noted that the Presidency Ministry is aware that girls face a number of challenges such as lack clean sanitary facilities, changing rooms, waste disposal facilities, water and soap for washing and hygienic sanitary wear.

"Therefore, such girls, from primary five up until senior three resort to "unhygienic substitutes such as rags, pieces of foam mattress, toilet paper or banana fibers, for menstrual management which causes considerable health risks and absenteeism, " Mbayo told MPs.

Mbayo cited statistics from the 2012 study done by International Rescue Centre that noted that one in ten menstruating girls skip school four days every month, which is about 24 days the entire year. There are about 220 school learning days a year.

She noted that though the pledge has not been fulfilled, the ministry of Education is working with some civil Society Organizations to pilot interventions on providing sanitary pads to girls in a number of districts in the country. They include Afri-pads, Uganda Red Cross, Eco-pads, Fields of Life, and plan International.

Mbayo also noted that the Education Ministry has also put up a number of initiatives to ensure menstrual management such as developing age appropriate information packages on menstrual hygiene, training in making re-usable pads using locally available materials, building the capacity of teachers especially senior female and male teachers to support school girls to manage physical and psycho-social changes associated with menstruation.

There was a bipartisan rebuttal on her recommendation because it didn't specify how much was needed or the targeted number of beneficiaries among other details.

The Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal and Arua Municipality MP, Kassiano Wadri poked holes in Mbayo's statement.

Ogwal noted that Mbayo had not presented budgetary requirements to provide sanitary pads to school girls across the country while Kassiano said the opposition should capitalize on the government's failure to fulfill the presidential pledge.

The Arua Woman MP, Mourine Osoru, Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi and Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka also demanded for a comprehensive statement with specified budget items.

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