The Rwandan government has on Tuesday, declared that it will be lifting taxes placed on sanitary pads. Reports indicate that there was a value added tax, VAT, of 18 percent, on the pads so far.
A pack of ten pads costs about 1,000 Rwandan Francs which is an equivalent of $1. As soon as the regulation is applied, customers expect to pay significantly lower amounts for pads.
Many human rights activists have argued that girls throughout Africa are restricted from going to school because of their inability to afford pads and governments have been continuously urged to drop the taxes.
“For many girls and women, especially in rural areas, the cost of the pads is too high. Many still rely to reusable cloth pads,” a women’s activist Saidath Murorunkwere stated.
A Rwandan reproductive health activist, Aline Berabose, told the BBC that girls from poor homes are known to skip school on their periods because they are unable to afford the pads.
Tito Mboweni, Finance Minister of South Africa, announced in a speech in October 2018 that the country will no longer tax sanitary products. Nonetheless, in April 2019, the scrapping of the 15% VAT on sanitary products was launched.
Since 2017, Zambia also commenced a program that provides schoolgirls with sanitary pads. In many countries around the world, menstruation is still taboo, it is also considered humiliating or shameful by some.
According to the UN, one in ten African girls skips school, during their periods. UNICEF reports that this implies that they lag behind in their studies and often end up dropping out of school.
In 2017, the government of Kenya introduced a policy, providing schoolgirls with free sanitary pads with the aim of keeping them in school. The policy was estimated at an annual cost of $4.8 million (500 million shillings).
Researchers at Oxford University found school absenteeism in neighboring Uganda was 17% higher among girls who did not have access to sanitary towels or puberty information.
According to campaigners for gender equality, when 10 million more women are educated, a country experiences an average of a 3 percent increase in the country’s GDP. Every additional year of secondary education results in a 15-25% increase in a girl child’s potential income.