“We must remain committed to preserving the rights and dignity of our adolescent girls because ignoring their menstrual hygiene needs is a violation of their rights: leaders need to find practical, holistic and cost-effective solutions that would ensure even the least fortunate have access to clean and safe sanitary solutions” Margaret Kenyatta – The first Lady Of Kenya.
The maintenance of an active lifestyle, devoid of stress and tension during periods, and its culminating effect on school dropout and attendance has become a huge concern to girls, parents, education sector players, Civil Society Organizations and development partners.
Interaction with a cross section of people in the street after a Facebook status update reveals that most Ghanaians including men are of the view that sanitary pads should be tax free if the product cannot be made available to girls free of charge.
J Initiative is of the view that, it would not be a bad idea to even start by including it in the Free Senior High School kits.
Our checks with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) show sanitary pads classified as luxurious items: the Harmonized System Code 9619002900. Under the GRA goods are classified in two main two main categories: luxuries and essentials. Therefore if a product like sanitary pad is coded as ‘luxury’ it does attract a 20% import tax levy. This is the case with tampons, among other items.
J Initiative is not yet asking for free sanitary pads for girls , all we are asking is for the pads to be reclassified into an ‘essentials’ category in order for it to attract zero tax, we believe when this is done it would automatically reduce the cost of the product. This high percentage tax makes the cost of sanitary pads expensive for girls. Reviewing the categorization of sanitary pads will go a long way to making it less expensive and readily available to girls.
It is interesting to note that no tax is charged on condoms; an item which is used by choice and not a need and there is so much perceived difficulty in doing same for the girl child with sanitary pads; an item which is very much a necessity.
One may ask; how fair is that? It is about time serious action was taken to address this issue. Pilot tests carried out in Ghana and Kenya revealed that provision of sanitary pads to girls encourages school attendance and academic performance. Kenya has gone ahead to provide free sanitary pads to its girls of school going age. South Africa also provides sanitary pads to girls for free.
We believe Ghana should do same in order to fully achieve Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality Education), 5(Gender Equality) and 6 (Clean water and sanitation).
Girls matter too and need to feel happy during their periods. Let us end the era of girls missing school during their periods because they cannot afford sanitary pads. Let us end the era of girls living in poor health due to bad menstrual hygiene practices.
Mr. President, Honourable Minister for Finance and Honourable Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, please make sanitary pads zero tax!
Author: Awo Aidam Amenya, Executive director of J Initiative (JI)
(J initiative is a child focused research and advocacy based non-governmental organization that campaigns for/with children and young people and their families to influence policies and change practices that affect child welfare in Ghana.)