A tax on sanitary pads has been scrapped in Rwanda to make them more affordable for girls who are often forced to skip school during their periods, the ministry of gender has announced.

Menstruation is still considered taboo in many countries around the world, where it’s often considered embarrassing or shameful. It is reported that even parents do not care about their children’s plight when it comes to menstruation.

This comes as a measure to ease the lives of rural women and girls who were struggling to get these sanitary pads during their menstruations.

Before this decision, an 18% value-added tax was placed on the pads. As activists say that a pack of sanitary pads was a bit expensive for some to afford, which has had a big impact on the lives of women. and girls

“The Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability,” the ministry of gender and family promotion announced on its website and on Twitter on Wednesday.

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“This is a step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution. It is a shame that girls have to drop out of school just because of a biological process, so it is a good step what government is trying to do,” Annette Mukiga, a feminist activist in Rwanda told AFP.

“Our target is to make sure that sanitary pads are free, not just cheap but free in all schools, so that girls do not have to worry about this challenge anymore.” In 2017 a study conduction by the education ministry showed that girls aged 16 and above were eight percent more likely to drop out of school than boys, especially in rural areas.

Currently, ordinary sanitary pads range between Rwf1, 000 and Rwf600 for locally produced ones. According to the World Bank, as of 2018, at least 500 million women and girls globally lacked adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Of those, 250 million are in developing countries where they lack (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, particularly in public places, such as in schools, workplaces or health centres, which poses a major obstacle to women and girls.

What about other African countries?

South Africa had already taken the measure to scrap the tax on sanitary pads in order to help all women ad girls. The implementation of this South African decision came into effect in April 2019.

Since 2017, Zambia has set up a policy plan to provide sanitary pads for all schoolgirls.

The Kenyan government announced a policy that provided free sanitary pads to schoolgirls in order to keep them in school. It was in a bid to expand a program giving pads to girls from poor families.

Under pressure from its citizens, Tanzania had removed the value-added tax on the sanitary pads in July 2018,  but the government announced in June 2019 revoked the bill and reintroduced it and retaxed again the sanitary pads, where users are said to be unable to afford them, especially in rural areas.

This decision by Magufuli’s decision has sparked anger from its citizens who ware amazed at how could Tanzania impose a tax on sanitary pads again.

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