After a highly emotional debate in which Members of Parliament expressed concern that President Yoweri Museveni’s 2016 election campaign pledge for free sanitary pads in schools had taken long to be honored.
MPs resolved that the Government undertakes the necessary measures to implement it. The MPs made the decision after an ‘unconvincing’ statement presented by the Minister of the Presidency, Esther Mbayo, on the matter.
Mbayo, who appreciated the need to have sanitary pads provided to reduce the high dropout rate for schoolgirls, however, argued that there was a need for benchmarking in other countries before the Government could implement it.
She said some presidential pledges like the one on sanitary pads are supposed to be incorporated in the budgets of the line ministries. Making reference to the appropriation powers given to Parliament by the Constitution, the minister appealed to Parliament to ensure that in the next budgeting process the money for buying sanitary pads is included.
Mbayo also reported that about 23% of girls drop out of school due to menstruation challenges, especially the inability to afford sanitary pads. The minister explained that girls who cannot afford sanitary pads miss about 24 days out of the 220 learning days in a year, which greatly affects their performance.
But the MPs blamed the Executive which prepares the national budget for not having catered for sanitary pads for all the years that have passed.
Fort Portal Municipality MP Alex Ruhunda wondered why the female MPs had not seriously fought to ensure the sanitary pads are distributed in schools to promote girl child education. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, however, ruled Ruhunda out of order, arguing that she and many other MPs have been distributing free sanitary pads in different parts of the country.
Ruhunda, who eventually withdrew his statement, said he had made the statement to provoke the female legislators into the necessary action. Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal said: “As Parliament, we cannot appropriate from nowhere.
Let the Executive come with a well-calculated budget proposal for funding sanitary pads.” Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri said Article 93 of the Constitution gives authority to the Executive to determine budget ceilings.
“Parliament does little in determining where to allocate resources.” Lira Woman MP Sandra Alum Santa said the President made this pledge from Lira. She said the voters keep wondering why it has taken long to be fulfilled.
Luwero Woman MP Eng. Lillian Nakate suggested that for the Government to be able to provide sanitary pads in a sustainable way, there is a need to construct a factory that produces sanitary pads, an idea that was backed by several other legislators.
At the end of the heated debate, Parliament resolved that the education ministry presents the budget for the sanitary pads on Thursday next week.