Aisha Hinds of the Shots Fired series once said, “It goes against natural order for a parent to bury their child.” Jackeline Chepng’eno’s parents were dealt with this sad reality when their 14-year-old took her life after being subjected to period shame by her teacher. This unfortunate incident speaks of failure on several levels of the young girl’s ecosystem. Failure by the teaching system, the government and society to create an accommodating environment for a girl hitting puberty.
In an all too familiar move, questions started being asked after the milk was already spilled. In June 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed to law a Bill to amend the Basic Education Act that would bring to effect the free sanitary pads to primary schools. What followed was an allocation of Sh 420 million in 2018 which supplied 3.7 million girls with sanitary towels according to the Ministry of Gender. As it turns out, the tendering process of this programme wasn’t spared from controversy. Some members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have linked Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang to Konyipad Construction and Supplies Company Ltd that was awarded the tender to supply and deliver sanitary towels to schools despite not being the lowest bidder.
The opaqueness of this and many other government tendering processes have overtime affected service delivery and is now threatening more than half of the Kenyan population. Which therefore means that Parliament has been slacking on its oversight mandate. It’s been said before that we do not face an absence of laws rather a lack of good will to implement them. It was just a month ago that Kwale Women representative Zuleikah Hassan was ejected from Parliament for bringing her 5-month old baby into the parliament chambers. Reason being that the Parliament buildings did not have a functioning crèche 6 years after MPs passed a motion directing the PSC to set aside a room for nursing mothers. Parliament needs to pull up their socks in gender responsive legislation if we ever want to end gender inequality in this country.
It is only right that this process is properly audited to ensure that it covers all bases in the next round of distribution. Furthermore, it may be in the best interests for all interested parties to move this function to the Ministry of Education to avoid any delays that stem out of the bureaucracy that is involved in acquiring the pads from the Gender Ministry.
This incident has not only put the PAC on the spot but the Education Committee from whom Bomet women representative, Joyce Korir sought answers with regards to the disciplinary action that will be taken against the teacher. Among the enraged women legislators was Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo who urged the family to sue the Ministry of Education and called for disciplinary action against the teacher. She did not leave TSC behind in the trail of blame and accused the commission for failure to train their teachers. Her sentiments underscore the need for sensitization of teachers in approaching sensitive matters but more importantly the need for trained counsellors in every educational institution to avoid such abrasive and insensitive approaches that threaten the well-being of children.
But there is a saying that goes, “the fish starts rotting from the head”. If we are at all going to achieve a society that normalizes periods it needs to start from our leadership to trickle down to the citizenry.