Thursday, 4 July 2013

Of Expectations and Biology

"Expectation is the root of all heartache" ~Shakespeare~

The new VAT Bill, which Parliament is set to discuss (and pass, given that the house now operates according to the Tyranny of Numbers) will make Kenyans pay more for essential basics like: journals, newspapers and periodicals, wheat flour, bread, computers and computer software, processed milk, rice and sanitary towels. These, among others, are some of the products that did not previously attract a VAT fee. Other services and/or commodities that are likely to be affected by the new bill include: domestic electricity consumption (By the way, please remember Ruto stopped KPLC from increasing the tariffs  Talk about being blind-sided eh?), water drilling services, parking at airports and hospital consumables e.t.c

But wait, before we take to the streets - yesterday, our President called all the Jubilee MPs to State House *Enter Tyranny of Numbers, again* and lobbied them to amend the Bill and exclude maize and bread from the list of items that would be taxed. I had a brief blonde moment when my thoughts led me to believe that he would include milk as well... Again, I said it was a blonde moment. It only lasted a minute. 

Anyway, this post is not about milk. I will also not pretend to be an expert on finance or fiscal policies and analyse the bill, I wouldn't know where to begin. If you are interested though, you can read a Position Paper done by ICPAK on the Bill here. It is very informative.

This post is about the President not lobbying his team from excluding one item from the bill: Sanitary Towels.

Perhaps for most of us, we don't appreciate the fact that we can afford and access sanitary towels - it is something we take for granted. It is a habit - going into the supermarket to do monthly shopping and to pick the brand of your choice. It is such a habit that we have never really stopped to think about the flip-side. The reality that in some parts of our country, for four days or more, girls, just like us, like our daughter, mothers, sister and friends have to stop living their lives due to natural biological processes. The reality that some girls have to sit in a hole until the last day, some use cow dung, leaves, rugs and papers as sanitary towels. Cow dung.

You see, what I do not get is how a government that realized that some of the challenges facing the FPE programme is the number of young girls who had to drop out of school once they hit puberty. That government went a step further to allocate 240 Million in the 2011/2012 Financial year to ensure that young girls would not drop out of school. The new cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Education has requested for 2.6 Billion to purchase sanitary towels for 2.6 Million girls. So, there is a section of government that is keen on making the lives of these girls run as smoothly as possible and the other wants to make life more difficult for them by taxing sanitary towels. Riddle me this. Is this a case of the left hand not knowing what the right arm is doing? Because if this be the case, then maybe we should consider chopping off both arms.

If the amended bill does NOT exclude sanitary towels, then what we are saying in essence is that the government will increase its budgetary allocation towards provision of sanitary towels; and not to buy more but because they will be more expensive.
(Didn't #UhuRuto promise to reduce the current government expenditure? But then again, Ruto wants 100 Million to renovate an eight-month old mansion... Woooosaaa!)

Let me tell you what is even more upsetting and somewhat disgusting... That ALL THOSE female MPs we elected have kept mum. What?!? *Hard Blink* Why haven't they boycotted meetings or something? Is it really too much to ask? That the women, stand up and speak up for young girls!?!?

My thoughts on this: We cannot have young girls using cow-dung, leaves, newspapers or living in holes because they are women. Not in this day and age. Not when, we have MDGs to attain and we keep talking about a #Post-2015World. The truth is, girls dropping out of school affects the country's efforts to achieve their MDGs: MDG 2 (Education for All) and MDG 3 (Gender Equity and Equality).

"When this school girl menstruates she stays home. When she is older, that is all she will be qualified to do" ~Anon~ 

I think sanitary towels are as necessary as condoms. And condoms are FREE - well, GoK ones. Sanitary Towels should be left in the zero-rated bracket FREE too. That is all I am saying in a nutshell. 

Lastly, I really should have managed my expectations of #UhuRuto.

Bye Folks.