LUV FM donates sanitary pads to girls in the Amansie Central District of Ashanti Region
It is welcome news. It is good news for girls; it is a win for advocates and civil society. It is a victory for all who supported the call for sanitary pads to be made affordable by removing existing taxes.
And so here we are today, looking into 2024, the tireless efforts of advocates were crowned in the Government’s 2024 “Nkunimde” budget statement read last Wednesday by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta.
In that budget, the Minister has simply endorsed the call of sanitary pad advocates by stating that locally produced sanitary pads are going to be tax-free. That in effect, should bring prices of locally produced pads down.
I normally would not sit through listening to budget statements. I often do not see what is in it for me as a pensioner. However, one thing that gave me hope in last Wednesday’s budget statement was that of a waiver on taxes on locally produced sanitary pads.
As an advocate for the welfare of women and girls, I had cause for a big sigh of relief and a thumps up hearing what everyone else heard.
Through no fault of theirs, women and girls around the world have faced discrimination, stigma and exclusion just because of a biological change in their bodies at a certain period in the month. They go through menstruation sometimes under pain and stress, something they did not choose for themselves but bestowed on them by nature.
Yet, in some traditional settings, no matter the level of enlightenment of the society, a woman or girl in her period is discriminated against and is even seen as unclean and excluded from certain rituals and practices.
The worse of it happening in recent times is that the stigma has taken a different turn in schools, especially in deprived areas as stated by research, where girls are absenting themselves from school due to teasing during their menstrual periods.
Because these vulnerable girls cannot afford or do not have access to the use of hygienically produced sanitary towels, they tend to use sub-standard materials during menstruation.
Consequently, sometimes, they end up with infections. Others badly soil their clothes which makes them a mockery at school. They face ridicule, especially by their male peers. So rather than go and endure ridicule, the girls would rather stay at home and miss classes.
Some unfortunate reports had it that some of the vulnerable girls sometimes became victims of promiscuous lives just so they could raise money to enable them to afford sanitary pads during their periods.
Some such reports did prick the conscience of some civil society organisations and individuals who vigorously took up the campaign to get the government to consider either supporting girls in vulnerable communities with free sanitary pads or removing taxes on locally produced sanitary pads and other products for maintaining personal hygiene during menstruation.
The latest calls were reiterated just last May when the world celebrated World Menstrual Day. There were calls once again on government to consider removing taxes from local production to make sanitary pads affordable and easily available. The good news is that all those cries have finally been heard and action taken in the government’s last budget statement read a few days ago.
According to the Graphic Business news story of Wednesday, November 15, the budget statement pleasantly announced that “taxes on locally produced sanitary pads had been removed”.
Not surprisingly, news reports and sampling views from the public as well as some local producers of the products have welcomed the announcement in the budget statement. It only remains for it to become a deed.
Come to think of it, it is not for nothing that the United Nations (UN) has set aside May 28 of each year to focus world attention on breaking any taboos end the stigma surrounding menstruation and focus on the importance of good menstrual hygiene management worldwide.
One’s take from the waiver of taxes on locally produced sanitary towels in the 2024 budget therefore is a two-pronged one. First and foremost, stigmas would be reduced and secondly, good menstrual hygiene would be ensured when affordability sets in and girls are able to afford clinically produced sanitary pads.
One only hopes that the news will be implemented sooner and the ripple effects become visible, especially in girls’ absenteeism from school. It is good news to learn that enrollment in secondary schools has tripled and in some instances quadrupled with the free SHS policy introduced by this government.
Hopefully, the school dropouts and low enrolment of girls reported in sections of the media will be reversed with this budget announcement. Parents and wards, as well as vulnerable girls, would experience the peace that tax waivers on locally produced sanitary pads have brought them.
The “Nkunimde” budget is definitely a victory for advocates for tax-free locally produced sanitary pads.
The writer can be contacted via email:[email protected]
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