Ngora District Woman Member of Parliament Jacquiline Amongin is drafting a private member’s bill on menstrual hygiene, dubbed Menstrual Health Management Bill.
Amongin said the Bill is aimed at addressing menstrual issues that are responsible for the increased school drop out of girls.
“Some girls are dropping out of school because they cannot afford sanitary towels, so we want this to come as a framework such that the Government puts costs for such emergencies to keep them in school,” Amongin said.
Last Thursday, a highly emotional debate stormed the floor of Parliament during a plenary session, with MPs expressing concern that President Yoweri Museveni is yet to honor his 2016 election campaign pledge to provide free sanitary pads in schools.
This was during a presentation of a ministerial statement by the Minister for the Presidency, Esther Mbayo, on the matter.
Mbayo, who appreciated the need to have sanitary pads in schools said this will help to reduce the high dropout rate for schoolgirls. She, however, argued that there was a need for benchmarking in other countries before the Government could implement it.
Mbayo said some presidential pledges such as the one on sanitary pads were 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.
On that point, Amongin said: “When the Government pledges and leaves it as a blanket statement, it becomes a ‘to whom it may concern’ note because there is no framework. But we want it in black and white so that it is planned and budgeted for and to ensure that these services are rendered to the girls in school.”
According to the Netherlands Development Organisation report on the girl child absenteeism of 2017, 23% of girls drop out of school due to menstruation challenges, with about 24 days out of the 220 learning days which is about 10% in a year lost due to menstrual-related matters; something that is attributed to the inability to afford sanitary pads.
Mary Fiona Aber, an expert in hygiene and sanitation at World Vision Uganda, welcomed the initiative, saying proper legislation strictly on menstrual hygiene will be a huge milestone in the campaign to encourage girls to keep in school.
However, she advised legislators to have the law approached in a holistic manner in which menstrual health will be looked at beyond just sanitary pads to infrastructural development such as bathrooms with running water, changing rooms and disposal points for the used pads.
She also called for social behavioral change of the communities through robust sensitization about menstruation to the males so as to create a conducive environment for girls, hence facilitating an easy implementation strategy of the law.