Remove Pink Tax on menstrual products to foster gender responsive budgeting

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Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe (SanAid) is a not-for-profit organisation which supports girls in Zimbabwe to stay in school by providing free sanitary pads and menstruation health edu­cation. We also support female pris­oners, homeless girls living in the streets, disabled women and rural girls with free menstrual products and information. As SanAid, we strongly believe that dignified and safe menstrual management is a key element of human development and the achievement of a better and more sustainable future for women.

As the Finance and Economic Development Ministry is currently conducting consultations for the 2019 National Budget, SanAid would like to call for policymakers to ensure gender responsive budget­ing. We call upon Government to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) on menstrual products as well as scrap customs duty on raw materials im­ported to manufacture sanitary wear. We believe that these are Pink Taxes that undermine human development and the dignity of women, especially those in rural areas where the major­ity of the population resides.

The price of sanitary pads has not been spared in the general price hikes that have been experienced in the economy. Sanitary pads’ price now range between $1,50 and as high as $11 for an eight pack. Most school girls, especially in rural areas, are missing school because of inability to afford pads during their monthly periods. In Zimbabwe, about 72 per­cent of rural primary school girls that menstruate, do not use sanitary pads. Some 46 percent of rural primary school girls that menstruate, have periods that last 3 to 4 days while 37 percent have periods that last 5 to 10 days. It is disheartening to note that 70 percent of these girls are not even aware of any sanitary pad brand on the market.

Due to the above, many girls miss school on a monthly basis, which af­fects their progress. It is estimated that girls lose about 528 days of learning from primary school up to Advanced Level due to menstrua­tion. However, Section 17(1a) of the Constitution says “the State must promote the full participa­tion of women in all spheres of the Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men”. We believe that the current price of sanitary pads is promoting the exclusion of women and is not in line with Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5 on gen­der equality and good health and wellbeing. Further, Section 29 of the Constitution also requires the State to ensure the provision of basic, ac­cessible and adequate health services throughout Zimbabwe.

However, due to the high price of the sanitary pads, some of those that do not afford them have been com­pelled to use rags, newspapers, socks, tissues, and other unhygienic means, thereby exposing themselves to dis­eases such as urinary tract infections, rashes as well as bacterial builds ups. SanAid has been working with a number of homeless girls living in the streets who cannot even afford to buy food and regard sanitary pads as luxury goods.

In light of the above, we call upon government, through the 2019 Na­tional Budget, to:

– Remove VAT on sanitary pads, tampons and panty liners

– Allocate a subsidy to reduce the price of sanitary pads and make them affordable to many women

– Ring-fence a fund for the supply of free pads to rural school girls and street kids

– Removal of customs duty on raw materials used to manufacture pads

SanAid has been doing its part by providing free sanitary pads to dis­advantaged girls and women. Those who want to volunteer or donate are welcome and can get in touch with us at contact details below:

Miss Theresa Farai Nyava, Exec­utive Director, Sanitary Aid Zim­babwe , 5 Heron Drive, Ridgeview, Harare.

Mobile: 0771404853.

Email: SanitaryAidZW@gmail. com