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Making sanitary pad accessible, affordable: Tax waiver crucial

BY: Elizabeth Konadu-Boakye
A waiver of tax on sanitary pads will help address the needs of girls, especially those in deprived communities
A waiver of tax on sanitary pads will help address the needs of girls, especially those in deprived communities

I was heading home after work and decided to pass by one of the shops in my neighbourhood to purchase a sanitary pad as the month was closing in soon.

I had not purchased one in about two months, so I decided to ask the shop attendant how much it cost now, considering the increase in prices of goods.

To my shock the shop attendant said “it’s GH¢18 please”.

As a typical Ghanaian I was like huh? I was convinced he was lying, because the last time I purchased one it was GH¢10, so how did it get to GH¢18 within eight weeks?

In a not so pleasant way, he replied, “madam you can take your money and buy from the next shop”.

Time was already gone, so I simply paid and left the shop, still in shock. I decided to verify if it was really GH¢18 on my WhatsApp messaging platform, and surprisingly, most of the ladies on the platform replied in the affirmative.

Gloomy

Then it hit me, how did we get here? When did having one’s period, become so expensive in the country? Where are we heading with this?

How much is the minimum wage in Ghana and how many young girls can casually afford.

I pictured a very gloomy future, if the prices should be increased further.

My thoughts immediately went to the underprivileged young ladies in our rural communities, who could not purchase the sanitary pad, when it was even at a price of GH¢5 back in the day.

We are going to have more ladies resort to unconventional means during their period. In my heartbreak, I sought the opinion of Nana Ama Adutwumwa, founder of the Touching The Lives of Girls Foundation International, on the matter

She has been in the menstrual hygiene advocacy for more than six years, and her observation and interaction in the period around the country showed that many girls resorted to other items, such as, socks, foam and rags during mensuration.

“These items are unhygienic and mostly cause yeast and bacterial infections, but because they do not have the money, they end up using them,” she said.

She added that the increment will have dire consequences, such as the influx of teenage pregnancy and school dropouts.

“Girls who can’t afford sometimes end up sleeping with men who can give them the money to purchase the sanitary pads. Those who refuse to sleep with the men will also drop out of school due to the shame involved and the constant teasing from the boys,” she added.

An article in the Junior Graphic in June, 2022, reported on how a family in Zimbabwe resorted to dried cow dung as the material during their mensuration, because they could not afford sanitary pads.

As scary as it may sound, situations like these are only the stark reality of a lot more whose voices are yet to be heard.

What are we asking for?

For years, various organisations and bodies have been calling on the government to remove the tax on sanitary products to make it affordable for all, especially young girls in deprived communities.

Reports indicate that most girls in the rural areas are prevented from going to school during their monthly menstrual cycle as a result of not being able to purchase sanitary pads.

The disturbing part of all this is the reported case where girls have to give themselves out for men to sleep with them before giving them money to buy sanitary pads.

Aware about the argument that the country largely imports sanitary products and the scrapping of taxes on sanitary pads may in one or the other benefit the producers, we however still insist that the government simply waive the tax!

The 20 per cent import tax is too exorbitant.

Periods aren’t luxuries and most ladies already deal with a lot during their periods. The last thing you would want to add is the pain of having to purchase expensive sanitary tools.

Reusable pads and cups

Yes, I have heard about the reusable pads and cups that have come as other means and options to deal with the situation.

But if we should delve deeper, these new options are not convenient for most ladies and a majority of women prefer to use the disposable sanitary tools.

Disposable sanitary pads are the most preferred, so please do not kill us with expensive prices.

The writer is a menstrual health and hygiene advocate/Founder of the Menstrual Health and Menstrual Hygiene (M2H2) Project. Writer’s email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.