A new research by Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a charity organisation, has revealed that the high cost of Sanitary towels contributes highly to the rate of absenteeism in school.
Releasing the report to members of Rwanda Association of University Women (RAUW), the organisation founder Elizabeth Scharpf said that the lack of access to health and hygiene education and low-cost sanitary towels is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed.
According to the survey, the high cost is keeping girls and many females out of school and work which ultimately has a significant effect on the economy.
“There are three main drivers of sanitary pad prices: distribution, raw materials, and taxes. While distribution and raw material costs are obstacles in many other countries, Rwanda is one of the few East African countries that continue to levy a Value Added Tax on sanitary pads. In 2009, the rate is 18%,” indicated the survey.
500 girls and women who were sampled during the random survey cited over-priced sanitary pads as a major hindrance.
Commenting on the survey, the president of Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE), Odette Mukazi Mutanguha, thanked SHE for the survey and called all stakeholders to join the debate and efforts to alleviate obstacle to girls’ education and women’s professional achievement.
FAWE is in the process of rolling out a sensitization program to ensure that schools make emergency sanitary pads and disposal bins available for girls.
“We have realised even though we give girls scholarships if we don’t make sanitary pads available they will still miss school because they can’t afford to buy them, girls are missing school 4 days a month during their menses just because the pads are too expensive and we need to address this,” Mutanguha revealed.
Mutanguha noted that sanitary towels are as priority as books to school girls and should be considered in planning and in drafting national and districts budgets.