Education Minister, Activists Clash on Reusable Sanitary Pads

Kampala, Uganda | THE BLACK EXAMINER | Janet Kataha Museveni, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, recently expressed her reservations about the promotion and distribution of reusable sanitary pads to schoolgirls. She acknowledged the urgent need for girls to have access to menstrual hygiene products but raised concerns about the idea of reusable pads, considering them degrading and a potential health risk.

She made these comments during the National Youth Convention on October 13, 2023, revealing that a group had approached her with the idea of promoting reusable sanitary pads to keep girls in school, but she declined to support the campaign.

However, Hope Nankunda, the Executive Director of Health Promotions and Rights Watch Uganda, emphasized that in economically disadvantaged areas where even affording a meal can be a struggle, sanitary pads are seen as a luxury item. In such circumstances, reusable pads can be a practical and valuable resource for girls.

Nankunda argued that girls in these regions still need a solution to manage their menstruation effectively, and many resort to using old clothes, which they wash and reuse. Reusable sanitary towels could offer a safer and more sustainable alternative if made available.

The provision of sanitary pads to schoolgirls has been a contentious issue in Uganda for over a decade, with research indicating a link between girls’ school dropout rates and menstrual challenges. Advocates have called for the government to provide free sanitary towels to girls, similar to the distribution of free condoms for promoting safe sex.

Janet Museveni has maintained that the responsibility of providing sanitary pads should primarily rest with parents. She believes the government should support families in developing sustainable livelihoods to address this issue effectively. She has proposed establishing a factory to manufacture sanitary pads distributed at no cost to schoolgirls, offering a self-sustaining solution to menstrual hygiene challenges.

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Despite promises in the past, the provision of free sanitary pads to students has not yet materialized, leaving this issue unresolved.

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