Mixed reactions to free sanitary pads issue
Parliament last Wednesday approved a $156 million dollar World Bank loan facility to finance the Ghana Secondary School Education Improvement Project.
The loan will, among other things, be used to fund the construction of community Senior High Schools (SHSs) across the country, provide scholarships for 10,400 SHS students, especially girls, over a three-year period in deprived communities, including the distribution of free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.
This, however, has been met with controversy. Some Members of Parliament (MPs), the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, as well as some policy analysts, including Mr Atik Mohammed of the People’s National Convention (PNC) are of the view that buying sanitary pads for schoolgirls was a misplaced priority.
However, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, has, in a statement, called on Ghanaians to see the advantages that this initiative is going to achieve in the area of improving gender parity at the SHS level.
The Ministry of Education (MoE), under whose watch the policy will be implemented, has also justified the act, insisting that the distribution of the sanitary pads was to prevent school dropouts.
Studies by researchers at the Green Templeton College of the University of Oxford and supported by the School Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, as well as a UNESCO report, has shown that the distribution of free sanitary pads was one of the ways that will help keep adolescent girls in school.
UNESCO also estimates that one in 10 African adolescent girls miss school during menstruation and eventually drops out of school because of menstruation-related issues such as inaccessibility of affordable sanitary protection, inter alia.
The Minority in Parliament, however, think otherwise as the Minority Spokesperson on education, Professor Dominic Fobih, and the MP for Weija Gbawe, Rosemary Abrah Comfort, questioned the rationale behind the sanitary pad component in the loan.