The government of Kenya announced this week that it will begin distributing free sanitary pads to every one of the 4.2 million girls in its public schools. Through the initiative, which is part of a program announced last June aimed at boosting girls’ access to education, the government will hand out 140 million sanitary pads over the next four months.

In Kenya, one million girls miss school because they lack access to menstrual hygiene supplies, according to ZanaAfrica, a Kenyan non-profit organization.

“This is a continuous exercise of providing free sanitary towels in all public schools in the country, this will encourage more girls to continue with school and they will no longer skip class during their monthly period,” Safina Kwekwe Sungu, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, and Youth Affairs, said in a statement.

Take Action: Prioritizing Menstrual Hygiene Management is Key to Ensuring Girls Can Stay in School

Kenya has been a world leader in improving access to menstrual hygiene management resources for years. In 2004, it was the first country in the world to eliminate taxes on tampons. And in 2011, Kenyan officials eliminated an import duty on sanitary pads and began setting aside $3 million per year to provide free pads to schools in low-income communities.

Read More: The Second-Largest State in India Just Took a Huge Step to Keep Girls in School

As part of her announcement, Sungu also made a point to call for an end to female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya. She categorized FGM as a human rights abuse that leads to school dropouts and early marriage, and called on community and church leaders to condemn it.

Around the world, women are forced to manage menstruation in unsanitary conditions, and period taboos prevent girls from attending school and women from working. In India, two thirds of women report managing their periods in fields or other unsanitary locations because they lack access to a toilet. And about 95% of girls in rural Ghana report missing school during their periods.

Global Citizen campaigns to support universal access to menstrual hygiene supplies. You can take action here.


Defeat Poverty

Kenya Boosts Girls’ Education by Providing Free Sanitary Pads

By Chris Gelardi