Education Minister launches sanitary pad distribution without preparationThe local governments, which are supposed to procure and distribute the pads, have yet to get the budget.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari, presenting the government's policies and programme on May 4, announced that sanitary pads would be freely distributed among school girls from the beginning of the current fiscal year.
Eight months after the announcement, Minister for Education Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel inaugurated the distribution from Siddhi Mangal Secondary School and Mahalaxmi Municipality, Lalitpur on Monday. The procedure for sanitary pad distribution and its management holds the respective local government responsible for making the sanitary pads available to the girls with funding from the federal government.
The government has allocated Rs 1.37 billion for the procurement of pads for the 753 local governments across the country. However, the local governments including Mahalaxmi Municipality haven’t received the budget from the federal government.
Rameshwor Shrestha, mayor of Mahalaxmi Municipality, said the Education Ministry chose the schools in their area to inaugurate the programme because the local government has been implementing the free pad distribution programme from last year with its own resources. Even the pads Pokharel distributed on Monday were bought by the municipality. “We have been told that it won't take long for the budget to come to our account,” Shrestha told the Post.
The Education Ministry has targeted to reach 1.4 million girls from grades 6 to 12 in public schools across the country. Every month a student will get 16 pads—four for a day, which will cost around Rs 100 to the state coffers. According to the government’s criteria, 95 percent of the material used in the pads should be cotton and the local governments must procure them through open bidding.
“We believe the distribution of sanitary pads will help reduce absenteeism among girl students during menstruation,” said Pokharel, inaugurating the distribution programme. “The initiative will help boost the quality of education.”
According to a 2016 report by UNICEF, 15 to 22 percent of girls from schools in Achham, Bajura and Parsa missed a whole day of school due to menstrual pain, fear of leakage and a need to change pads.
The representatives of the local governments say the federal government started the programme without due preparation and without ensuring the needed budget.
“Maybe the federal government wants to take credit for the programme, which is fine. However, it wasn’t necessary to hurry for its launch,” Bhim Prasad Dhungana, mayor of Neelkantha Municipality in Dhanding who also is the general secretary of Municipal Association Nepal, told the Post. He said it will take at least a couple of months for the local governments to start the distribution of pads even if they get the budget soon. The procurement process that has to be done through tender takes time, he said. “Pokharel could have waited until the problems were sorted,” he said.
Officials at the ministry, however, say the Ministry of Finance has released the budget to the District Treasury Offices which will send it to the respective local government. “I believe it shouldn’t take more than a week for all the local governments to get their share of the budget,” Deepak Sharma, spokesperson for the Education Ministry, told the Post.