The Women Action for Development (WAD) has once again petitioned government to consider scrapping value added tax on menstrual hygiene products, including sanitary pads. The petition has thus far received about 6 000 signatures.
WAD assistant project manager Shanice Britz said the petition was inspired by the fact that a lot of women in Namibia, especially in rural areas, do not have access to proper sanitary products.
“The minister of gender equality Doreen Sioka announced in parliament last year that more than 80% of young girls in rural areas do not have access to sanitary products. This shocking news prompted WAD to contemplate various strategies that we can employ to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene management and find long-term solutions to the inaccessibility of sanitary products,” said Britz.
She added that menstrual hygiene is a human right issue and there is a need to ensure that women have access to adequate menstrual hygiene.
“It makes no sense that we supply free condoms to men but cannot supply free or affordable sanitary products to women. Sex is a choice but menstruation is a biological process that occurs to most women. When we deny women access to affordable sanitary products, we are denying them a basic human right,” she highlighted.
“Women’s human rights are negatively impacted when women and girls cannot manage menstruation with dignity. With this campaign we are saying, women have suffered enough. And it is about time we revive the discussion around menstrual hygiene management. Hence, our call for the exemption of VAT on all menstrual hygiene products, just to enable women and girls to manage their periods with dignity. With this petition, we are soliciting signatures from the public to support the campaign.”
WAD also feels the number of women and girls facing period poverty may have risen significantly during the Covid-19 lockdown, especially because many citizens have lost their jobs and income.
“Without access to proper sanitary care women are not able to manage their periods and this may affect them mentally. Some schools were receiving donations of pads from companies and good Samaritans, but with the lockdown, a lot of businesses have incurred losses, and many are unable to donate pads anymore, which exacerbated the situation for women and young girls, especially in rural areas,” said Britz.
Gender minister Doreen Sioka told New Era this week that people have been confusing the responsibilities of her office and linking it with other tasks.
“That directorate is under the ministry of education, people are confusing it with gender. We are divided into clusters – the minister of gender deals with GBV, human trafficking and so on and the children we deal with are mostly underage. The cluster of sanitary pads belongs to education. I would advise WAD to approach the education ministry,” she said.
This is not the first time WAD is advocating that tax-free sanitary pads be distributed in the country. They ignited the drive last year when they demanded treasury to seriously consider the exemption of sanitary products from VAT.