The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) seating in Arusha, Tanzania, last week passed a resolution urging Partner States to waive taxes on sanitary pads in the region to increase their availability and affordability for young girls.
The World Bank estimates that at least 20 per cent of schoolgirls in Rwanda – particularly in rural areas – miss school up to 50 days per year due to lack of sanitary pads and clean private facilities during their monthly periods.
Moving the motion, Rwanda’s representative noted that poor menstrual hygiene in the EAC is insufficiently acknowledged and that poor girls who often have no access to the sanitary products resort to less safe alternatives available to them like rags, which leads to social trauma and distress.
A resolution calling on countries to waive taxes on sanitary pads is a positive proposal that should be given due attention and consideration.
Menstruation should not be allowed to become a bottleneck in the education of the girl child.
Although some initiatives have tried to keep girls in school, such as supplying free sanitary pads, they still remain out of reach for majority girls.
And while supplying free pads is a positive move, such dependent model of addressing the issue is not sustainable. The proposed tax waiver is therefore a good beginning.
EAC governments should prioritise this with view to developing affordable and effective alternatives in the region.
Particularly home-grown projects need support. Also, more awareness is needed to reduce stigma of menstruation as part of a wider campaign to address the issue.
Governments should also provide enough funding to offer separate toilets for boys and girls in school as well as address the issue of water, hygiene and sanitation.