After VAT waiver, now activists want production costs for sanitary pads reduced

In August 2013, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) passed a resolution urging partner states to waive taxes on sanitary pads in order to increase their accessibility for girls and women.

Seven years later, Rwanda has announced it is scrapping Value Added Tax (VAT) on sanitary pads to make them more affordable.


Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) activists and beneficiaries have welcomed the move. “This is a great achievement. It indicates the will to put more efforts in the matter and we are hopeful,” said Jullian Ingabire Kayibanda, who has been involved in MHM for 10 years.


How helpful?

With VAT at 18 per cent, the cost of sanitary pads will be 18 per cent cheaper.

To put this into context, if one currently pays Rwf1,000 for one packet, they will now spend Rwf820 instead—saving over Rwf2,000 every year—if they use one packet every month.  

However, the high prices might persist if production costs are not reduced.

Honorine Ndatimana, a 20-year-old impoverished single mother who barely affords Rwf1000 for a pack of pads says that Rwf500 price reduction would make them more affordable.

 “I can afford at least half of the price,” she said.   

Oddete Nyiramilimo, a former MP who architected the motion in EALA in 2013 sees the move as an achievement but insists that more needs to be done.

“It is an exciting achievement, thanks to the government of Rwanda. But VAT exemption (alone) can hardly make pads accessible,” she told The New Times.

Kayibanda agrees with Nyiramilimo that appropriate MHM requires more than just a price reduction of Rwf180.

“The government, in addition, should ensure that the VAT exempt is not just in the books, businesses need to adhere to it. There is a risk that they can keep the cost high irrespective of the VAT removal,” she insisted.

More than ensuring access needs to be done

Kayibanda added that issues around MHM are not only related to accessibility, saying that there's a need to ensure integration of MHM in school curriculums.

This would encourage breaking the silence around menstruation.

“The government also needs to encourage local production of sanitary pads that are environment-friendly,” she said.

Rwanda becomes the third East African Community state to waive VAT on sanitary pads.

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