The following article was suggested by one of our readers—if theres an idea you would like us to cover, please submit it here. The exemption of value-added tax (VAT) from sanitary pads has caused inconsequential impact on girls’ access to these products and hence new measures need to be taken, according to activists. It was December last year when the government scrapped VAT on sanitary pads to make them more affordable. The move was praised as a good development, for what it was. However, today about 11 months after the decision, the public has raised concerns that there is almost no difference in the prices reflective of the tax waiver. Activists have argued that VAT waiver does not mean that everyone will afford these products, and so, a more sustainable solution is needed. Fiona Mbabazi, a news anchor at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) who is one the vocal voices about improved access for sanitary pads for girls, told The New Times that with the 18 per cent VAT waiver, still, many girls would not afford sanitary products. With a regular packet of these products going for about Rwf1,000 or Rwf8,00, the VAT waiver means the new price would be between Rw820 and Rwf656. “Still the people that were not affording them before may not find that money,” Mbabazi said. She recognized the VAT waiver as “one of the first steps” that have been made but suggested more towards the cause. For instance, she said one of the best ways for good access to period products is to try providing them freely to the neediest people. “In all essence, why do they give free condoms? For me, condoms could probably not be a necessity; but going through the menstrual period is something that every woman or girl experiences without choice,” she said. Meanwhile, she also questioned why the VAT waiver has failed to reflect in the period product prices. “The question would be how many people (distributors) have implemented this? We still have sanitary pads that cost say Rwf1000, and this was the price about a year back. So what happened to the VAT?” she asked. Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) said earlier this year that VAT is no longer levied on sanitary pads since the waiver announcement in December 2019 which was meant to take immediate effect. However, The New Times learned that somehow the prices of sanitary pads continue to be the same – be it at retail or wholesale level. According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), the high prices of sanitary pads are mainly caused by the supply shortage on the Rwandan market. “Currently, there are discussions between traders, industrialists and MINICOM to see how they can reduce the prices where they seem high; and how the factories can increase production of these products,” a statement by MINICOM reads. Isabella Akaliza, who is behind the #FreeThePeriod Initiative that has been supporting girls with period products told The New Times that VAT was just one of the many barriers, but there are still more that have to be addressed and prioritised. Among these, she says, for example, government can heavily subsidize the production of period products, or allocating some of the national budget towards their provision; or NGOs can equip communities with the resources to create their own reusable pads. “This is a serious issue that we need to see more policymakers addressing,” she said. “Removing VAT is a step in the right direction but there is more to be done. Period poverty does not just affect girls in schools. There are women in prisons, hospitals, workplaces, their own homes who are suffering from the indignity of period poverty. NGOs and grassroots organisations cannot cater to all of them, the need is too large. We need real government intervention,” she added. Canisius Bihira, an economic analyst spoke to The New Times about this issue. He rooted for a more sustainable answer to the challenge of access to these products. For him, he thinks one of the things that can be done is resorting to sanitary products that can be reused multiple times. He advises that there should be more steps made in teaching people to make their own sanitary towels at home level. He also advises that government should try to encourage local factories to manufacture reusable sanitary products.