Gender advocacy NGO, Bridge for Equity Ghana, has started a “NoPadTax” campaign with the hope of urging government to scrap taxes on sanitary pads to enable girls to stay in school during menstruation.
The NoPadTax campaign is also aimed at advocating for the local production of sanitary pads in order to make it easier for government to scrap the taxes, create more employment and increase revenue of the country.
The campaign again seeks to normalize periods by educating men and boys to embrace and accept menstruation as a natural phenomenon.
Currently, there is a 20% tax on sanitary products in Ghana which has highly contributed to the inaccessibility of sanitary pads by some teenage girls in Ghana.
In an interview with the founder, Lilipearl Baaba Otoo, she noted that sanitary products are not luxury items as it has been classified by the Ghana Revenue Authority and therefore should be made available and accessible to everyone by all means possible.
She said: “We have been doing a lot of advocacy on gender education but in 2018 we realized that schools in the Krachie East District had less girls than boys in class. I am a journalist also, so I decided to investigate only to find out that the girls are disinterested in school because of something as natural as menstruation.”
She revealed that the girls reported the embarrassment they go through during their period because they tend to use rags instead of sanitary pads, which eventually leak and stain their school uniform.
According to her, these girls are teased by their male colleagues and complained of how expensive sanitary pads are which makes it almost impossible to afford it every month.
Lilipearl added that some of these girls who have decided to stay in school have resorted to having boyfriends who are farmers in the community so that they are taken care of and given some money to buy sanitary pads.
“It will shock you to know that some of the girls we spoke to said during their period, they seek for other means to make money which includes sleeping with some farmers who have shown interest to take care of them while in school. One of them told me she used to do that with her friend when she eventually got pregnant and dropped out of school and that is the only reason why she stopped.”
“I do not dispute the fact that some of these girls just want to have boyfriends. They are teenagers, their bodies and hormones are changing so yes, they will be attracted to go in for sex but one does not just wake up to have a boyfriend. There is that notion of “he can take care of me because he is working” before they go in. These things lead to a bigger picture of teenage pregnancy.”
“There are so many things that lead to school dropouts; poverty, long distances to schools and what not, however, to sight something as natural as menstruation as the reason for staying out of school is appalling and needs all the attention it can get,” she lamented.
Lilipearl said the long-term goal is to get government to give out these pads for free but until then, her organisation is advocating for government to create an environment that enables the local production of sanitary pads and scrap the 20% tax on them.
Over the years, some organizations including celebrities, have called on government to scrap taxes on sanitary products. Bridge for Equity has joined the campaign and taken it a notch higher to petition government.
The organisation is doing this with support from Plan Ghana and in collaboration with other like-minded NGOs such as Standout Care, The Kyereh Foundation, CAMFED Association, Future Friends, One friend-One pad, Pad a Girl, Girl Child Concern Ghana, Stay Free, Plan Ghana Alumni Network, Future Leaders Advocacy Group and the Organisation for Inclusion and Empowerment (OFIE).