The cry of Ghanaian women about the high cost of sanitary pads, has pushed the Ghana Civil Society Platform for Sustainable Development Goals to demand for the immediate removal of taxes on sanitary pads by ahead of the 2024 budget reading.
Addressing a press conference,on behalf of the group Ms. Angel Cudjoe pointed out that cost of sanitary must not be an obstacle to the management of a natural phenomenon of menstruation and therefore demand the removal of all forms of taxes.
“The lack of accessibility and affordability is throwing girls and young women out of school and businesses which further widens the inequality gap in education and economic empowerment of women and girls.
She stressed that there are health implications for girls and young women who resort to use of unhygienic menstrual products because of its affordability.
Ms. Angel Cudjoe appealed to Government to ensure that all products (sanitary pads, re-usable pads etc.) are affordable, accessible, and available to enable women and girls not to miss out on any educational and economic activities during their menstrual cycle.
Government she mentioned, should support the local industries by giving them tax exemptions and incentives in other to reach their production capacities and meet market demands.
Ms. Angel Cudjoe on behalf of the Ghana Civil Society Platform told Government of Ghana to as a matter of urgency, increase budgetary allocation to all Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies to enable them provide separate WASH facilities for boys and girls that meet the WASH standards for all schools in the country.
She averred that, Ghana can learn from what her peer countries are doing as far as sanitary pads are concerned saying, Kenya abolished taxes on sanitary pads as far back as 2004 and since 2011, the Kenyan government has been budgeting about $3 million per year to distribute free sanitary pads in schools in low-income communities. “In 2017, Kenya amended its Education Act to require distribution of sanitary pads at schools. Rwanda and South Africa have also removed taxes on sanitary pads”.
According to Ms. Cudjoe, the government of Ghana needs to consider tax reliefs for local manufacturers (zero VAT rate, removal of straight levies and 5% import duty on raw materials), likewise the need for the Ghana Revenue Authority to re-classify raw materials to produce sanctuary pads as medical devices and not as it is currently classified as miscellaneous which attracts taxes
“When girls and women have access to safe and affordable sanitary materials and facilities to manage their menstruation, they decrease their risk of infection. This can have cascading effects on overall sexual and reproductive health, including reducing teen pregnancy, improved maternal outcomes, and fertility. Poor menstrual hygiene, however, can pose serious health risks, like reproductive and urinary tract infections, which can result in future infertility and birth complications”.
Menstruation is a biological process that marks the beginning of the reproductive age for a girl. Globally, 1.8 billion women and girls of reproductive age menstruate every month (UNICEF, 2019).
The Ghana Education Services through the School Health Education Programme (GESS-SHEP) has established minimum guidelines for menstrual hygiene facilities. Despite the guidelines provided, over 40% of basic schools in Ghana do not have sanitation facilities. The non-availability of these hygiene facilities affect adolescent girls retention in school, as most girls miss school during their menstrual cycle.
According to UNESCO (2014), one (1) in ten (10) girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are unable to attend school during their menstrual cycle, with most girls being absent from school for an average of four (4) days in a month resulting in the loss of approximately 13 learning days equivalent in each school term. In an academic year (nine (9) months), an adolescent girl loses 39 learning days, equivalent to six weeks of learning time, due to a lack of sanitary pads (UNESCO, 2014; Lusk-Stover et al, 2016).