A story by a former winner of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award has brought about a change in the law in Kenya. All Kenyan schoolgirls are now to get free sanitary pads, the government has said.
Four years ago, Judy Kosgei won the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist award for her revelatory stories, which included a story about how up to two million young girls were unable to access sanitary towels.
Judy, who at the time was working for Kenya's leading media house, Citizen TV, interviewed girls living in a remote village in Kenya's Baringo county to discover how this affected their lives.
Eight hundred and fifty thousand girls were missing school in Kenya each month because they didn’t have adequate sanitary protection.
Her story, 'Period of Shame', filmed with cameramen Mauritius Odour and John Wanyama, prompted a campaign by Citizen TV which led to 720,000 sanitary towels being distributed to 10,000 girls in a campaign dubbed 'Inua Dada'.
The following year a bill was drafted by Baringo county Women Representative Grace Kiptui calling on the Kenyan government to set aside a budget for the purchase and supply of free, quality sanitary towels to all girls in public and secondary schools in Kenya.
The draft bill – the Basic Education (Amendment) Legislative Proposal, 2014 – reached the committee stage in the Kenyan parliament in 2016 with Judy playing a key part in the development process in advocacy and liaison.
The amendment to the education act, which has now been signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta, states "free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels" must be provided to every girl registered at school, as well as providing "a safe and environmental sound mechanism for disposal".
It is hoped the move will improve access to education in a country where many cannot afford sanitary products like pads and tampons.
“I'm so happy,” says Judy. "We want to work towards a just world for girls and women. We cannot have a just world if a girl is missing school but is still having to sit the same exams as a boy who attends school every day."
The Young Journalist Award reaffirmed that little voice in my head that said changing lives begins with me.
Judy is now regional communications officer in the Africa office for Equality Now, a group which advocates using the law to bring about change, where she is fronting national campaigns to end the harmful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and stop sexual violence against women.
In some areas of Africa the deeply rooted “tradition” demands that girls undergo FGM. The practice was banned in Kenya in 2011 but there have been only two prosecutions, with one of those prosecuted serving a seven-year prison sentence.
“I want to shape a world that is free of violence and where girls and women can enjoy their rights,” says Judy.
Kenya's schoolgirls will get free sanitary pads. It's a victory for our former Young Journalist winner, Judy Kosgei, who uncovered the plight of girls in 2013.
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