Based on stunning survey results which revealed that half the number of girls in school miss classes due to lack of sanitary pads, hundreds of activists from various organizations yesterday took to the streets to advocate for lower or no taxes on the towels.
As they held their placards high with messages like “Remove taxation on sanitary pads to keep the girl child in school and improve women’s health”, the group emphasized the need to also break silence on menstruation.
“The goal of this campaign is to encourage a dialogue on the taboo subject of menstruation and issues surrounding it so that resources like sanitary pads can be widely availed,” the head of operations from Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), Julian Kayibanda said.
“Lack of sanitary pads and hygiene is a problem that exists everywhere in the world, especially Africa. In Rwanda, a 2007 survey done among 36 percent of women showed that18 percent fail to go to school or keep up with work due to this problem.”
In this regard, Kayibanda emphasized the need for sustainable solutions that will enable increased access to affordable sanitary towels.
“Right now, the cheapest cost Rwf500 but we believe that government can significantly reduce this price. We are also looking at a situation where the girl-child will be able to learn about the menstruation cycle and general hygiene in a bid to improve women’s health.”
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Joseph Habineza, also noted that Rwandans have a negative culture towards educating children on reproductive health.
He therefore pledged to increase sensitization on the need to break the silence so that so that all girls acquire knowledge on body hygiene and what to do during the menstrual periods.
“Once you write that petition to the Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority, I will definitely sign and advocate for it,” Habineza pledged.
According to officials, all prices of sanitary pads include an 18 percent Value Added Tax(VAT) which makes it expensive for thousands of girls and women countrywide.
Organized by FAWE, the Rwanda Association of University Women, National Youth Council, CARE, New Dawn Associates, Plan Rwanda and SHE, the march began at the Kigali Business Centre and proceeded to Petit Stade Amahoro.