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Regional News of Thursday, 27 May 2021

Source: Bongo Youth Alliance

Waive taxes on sanitary pads to address period poverty

Menstrual Hygiene Day : The BOYA has called on the govt to waive taxes in sanitary pads Menstrual Hygiene Day : The BOYA has called on the govt to waive taxes in sanitary pads

On the occasion of Menstrual Hygiene Day, the Bongo Youth Alliance (BOYA) wished to call on the government to waive taxes in sanitary pads to address period poverty in Ghana.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day which is observed on 28th May every year to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management at a global level.

It is not more a widespread notion and perception that many girls in Africa and rural Ghana miss school or drop out of school during menstruation, but a reality. Menstruation forms part of the basic natural fundamental component of the life of girls and women. The extent to which girls can attain their full potential depends on their welfare and wellbeing.

Access to education is the surest path to progress and prosperity. Therefore, anything that has the potential to impede the girl’s education should not be encouraged. It is in line with this that the government took the bull by the horn to introduce free senior high schools to address the inequalities in accessing secondary education in Ghana.

But it appears there are equally other important factors that could prevent girls from attending school full time.

One such factor is the lack of sanitary pads for school girls. All over sub-Saharan Africa, it has emerged that millions of girls missed school during menstruation. According to the UNICEF water and sanitation in schools monitoring report, 11.5 million women in Ghana lack hygiene/sanitation management facilities.

Pads are important to the development of young girls. Many rural girls are absent from school during their period. The provision of sanitary pads not only helps keep girls in school but they are also considered a human right for promoting the dignity and safety of women and girls (Nancy Miller, PATH 2018).

In northern Ghana, about 95% of girls do not attend school during the menstrual period; this is according to research conducted by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the University for Development Studies (UDS) WASH Center, and the Desert Research Institute (DRI).

In all these, it has emerged that girls do not have access to sanitary pads because the product appears to be expensive for their parents to afford. So they absent themselves from school during their period. Those who are bold enough to go to school during their period but don’t have sanitary pads tend to use rags, cloths, old newspaper, leaves, etc. improvised as sanitary pads.

Some girls have resorted to transactional sex that is sex in exchange for a pad in many rural homes in Ghana. This has resulted in teenage pregnancy, child marriage, among others.

Currently, 20% luxury tax and 12.5% VAT applies to each sanitary pad that is imported into the country has made the commodity very expensive and inaccessible to many vulnerable girls in Ghana. I wonder what is luxurious about sanitary pads.

Many NGOs, civil society, and faith-based organizations have called on successive governments to waive taxes on the importation of sanitary pads and other sanitary wares in order to make them less expensive and accessible.

During the 2020 campaign, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) promised in their manifesto that they will abolish all taxes on sanitary pads. But when the 2021 budget and fiscal planning of the government was presented to parliament in March this year, it failed to capture the tax relief component of sanitary pads contrary to their manifesto promise.

As Ghana joins the rest of the world to mark the World Menstrual Hygiene today the 28th of May 2021, I wish to renew calls on this government to honor her campaign promise to abolish taxes on sanitary pads in order to make it more affordable and accessible. Indeed, countries like Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, and India among others have abolished taxes on sanitary pads so Ghana can also do it.

In fact, while I call on the government to waive taxes on sanitary pads as interim or ad hoc measures, I further wish to urge the government to prioritize and facilitate the production of sanitary pads locally through the one district one factory initiative. This will in the long run create jobs and also make the commodity cheap, affordable, and accessible to the vulnerable in society.

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