The Tanzanian government has made a decision to review its policy to
scrap VAT on sanitary pads, as the measure taken on July 1, 2018, has not produced the desired results.
Tanzania intended to join African countries, such as South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya in implementing measures to make sanitary pads more accessible to women, however, Deputy Finance and Planning Minister, Ashatu Kijaji has reported that the exemption of VAT was only benefitting traders and not women.
“I admit that there are reported complaints that women still feel the pinch of the item’s high price. We are thinking of the best measures that will have positive impacts on both women and government,” said Dr. Kijaji. Exempting sanitary pads from tax is a step in the right direction, however, Dr. Kijaji’s sentiments are an echo of some of the sentiments from other parts of the continent where the measure has been taken.
“The scrapping of VAT will benefit those who can afford to purchase, the middle class for example. What about children and women in rural
South Africa’s Nokuzula Ndwandwe of TeamFreeSanitaryPads, when the nation executed its own VAT exemption in April.
The lack of access to adequate sanitary ware for girls and women has a number of effects. Firstly, there is a health risk posed by the use of makeshift solutions during monthly menstrual cycles. Celeste Mergens of
US Charity Days for Girls’ International reported that in Uganda and
Kenya, women are using leaves, feathers, and mattress stuffing to absorb period blood.
“If women and girls continue to use unsanitary methods during their
menstruation cycle, they are likely to contract infections or illnesses
that may be costly to treat on the part of the government,” said the
Secretary General of Botswana’s Batswana National Front (BNF) party
after successfully passing Botswana’s legislation to provide free
sanitary ware to all schools in the nation.
The inability to have accessible sanitary products also hinders young girls from attending school on those days. According to Kenya’s Ministry’s of Education, thousands of Kenyan schoolgirls miss one and a half school months of class each year due to menstrual cycles.
Botswana Member of Parliament, Ngaka Ngaka, emphasized this point directly attributing poor academic performance in his constituency to absenteeism during menstruation and called on businesses to support the government in the provision of sanitary pads.
The fact that the Tanzanian government has not only implemented measures to address ‘period poverty’ but that they are holding themselves accountable to a positive outcome is a strong indicator that the taboo surrounding menstruation is beginning to dissipate. The tax exemption,
which took effect on July 1, 2018, was meant to enable women, especially
school girls access the sanitary towels at affordable prices.