In 2013, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) passed a resolution urging partner states to waive taxes on sanitary pads to increase their availability and affordability for young girls. But two years later, this resolution has only remained on paper.
As a result, in all regional countries, many girls miss school or drop out because of lack of sanitary pads.
Implementing this resolution is crucial, if East African Community (EAC) partner states are to achieve the girl child education goal, especially in the rural areas.
As the bloc moves toward harmonization of the education sector, this is an aspect that needs urgent attention from member states in line with ensuring that more girls remain in school.
Rwanda has put in place several measures to ensure that girls don’t drop out of school because of lack of sanitary pads among other challenges associated with menstruation, but the problem is still prevalent. Under Rwanda’s Education Sector Strategic Plan (2010-2015), supporting girls to obtain sanitary towels and special facilities for girls to reduce absenteeism and poor performance is one of the objectives.
However, World Bank statistics indicate that at least 20 per cent of schoolgirls in the country, particularly in rural areas, still miss school, up to 50 days per year, because pads are expensive.
Stakeholders need to do more to ensure that sanitary pads are made affordable.
Although, government does not impose any import duty on sanitary pads, the prices of sanitary pads are still high because of the 18 per cent value added tax. Concerted efforts are needed to fix this problem.
Otherwise, the gains in education and women empowerment will be in vain if girls continue missing school because of lack of sanitary pads.