In Summary

She is pretty right on that. Many poor girls use rags or other unhygienic things to manage their menstrual periods.

Special Seats MP Upendo Peneza’s idea that the government should provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls free of charge is commendable.

She is pretty right on that. Many poor girls use rags or other unhygienic things to manage their menstrual periods.

That being the case, they risk being infected or injured; and are sometimes unable to walk well. Such girls fear being in public without protection from blood staining.

I believe that providing such pads will protect girls against diseases, save their pocket money, enable them to be comfortable when studying and avoid embarrassment in the presence of boys.

It is understood that the number of girls who drop out of school is higher than that of boys. Early marriages and outdated traditions are some of the causes. So any attempt to enable girls to study comfortably is welcome.

Buying sanitary pads every month is obviously expensive. As an MP, I fully understand economic levels of many of our people. Nearly 70 per cent of Tanzanians live in rural areas where modern and safe ways of protecting menstruating girls for five days every month are either unavailable or unaffordable. That is why I support Peneza’s proposal.

Poor schoolgirls are forced to stay out of classes for an average for five days a month when menstruating. It should be remembered that girls also spend a lot of time doing domestic chores instead of studying. That means a further loss in their studies.

As if that is not enough, their health is endangered by using poor means to protect themselves when menstruating.

Take the example of recent Four Form exam results, which showed girls in boarding schools performed well. That was because key services were provided, enabling the students to concentrate on their studies. So, the importance of proving sanitary pads free of charge to schoolgirls cannot be underestimated.

Although Peneza’s motion was not acted upon as Parliament turned it down for want of procedures, it is still a brilliant idea for all practical purposes.

Although the motion was shot down, we shouldn’t despair. The campaign to provide the pads is still very much alive. Although it seems no free sanitary pads will be provided in the near future in Tanzanian public schools, we shouldn’t relent.

Kenyan schoolgirls enjoy the service.

Indeed the Tanzania Women Parliamentarians Group tried in vain to persuade Peneza against presenting the idea solo instead of doing so as a group.

So the motion easily hit a snag.

However, on social media male MPs such as Zitto Kabwe, Hussein Bashe and I endorsed it.

The country can no longer drag its feet on this issue. Times are changing. When I was growing it was even taboo to mention sanitary pads in public, but that isn’t the case now.

As long as sanitary pads are not provided, people will continue to demand them.

Let’s ensure our girls study well. Let’s have free education and free pads for disadvantaged schoolgirls.

As Ghanaian scholar James Aggrey said: “The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation.” To achieve that goal should include giving free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

Mr Saleh is a lawyer, journalist, author, political commentator, media consultant and poet. He is also the Member of Parliament for Malindi in Zanzibar