African women face “period poverty” because the cost of tampons and pads is too high for them to afford.

Investigation indicated that Ghanaian minimum wage workers spend one in seven dollars on sanitary pads.

They studied nine African nations about period product affordability. Many women could not afford the cheapest sanitary pads in their area when we compared the minimum wage to them.

Ghana has the most expensive menstruation supplies, but advocates are striving to end “period poverty” in Africa.

The short presentational grey line

Joyce, 22, from Ghana, cannot afford period products.

“The only guy who can assist demands sex before giving me money. I have to do it because I need pads for the month,” she says.

In six nations surveyed by the OECD, minimum-wage women must spend 3–13% of their pay for two packages of sanitary towels with eight pads, which many require each month.

Joyce stays with a family friend and relies on tips as a grocery shop clerk. Before, she could afford sanitary pads for 4.88 Ghanaian cedis (45 US cents; 35 UK pence) each box.

The government raised sanitary product levies, making a package of pads cost her 20 cedis.

Women protested outside Ghana’s parliament in June 2023 against price increases.

Ghanaians protested about the period tax in June.

Joyce felt out of options and caved into sexual demands for money for pads after using toilet paper as pads failed. Joyce’s battle is one of many.

The study calculated its conclusions using the minimum statutory pay in each of the nine nations surveyed and the lowest-priced pads locally.

Ghana has the most costly items each month.

A graph

Our study found that a Ghanaian woman earning $26 a month must pay $3, or $1 in every $7, to purchase two packs of sanitary towels with eight pads.

That implies that pads cost 11 cedis for every 80 cedis earned.

By contrast, US and UK women spend far less. For instance, at the US minimum wage, people spend $3 out of $1,200.

According to Ghanaian Center for Democratic Development (CDD) researcher Francisca Sarpong Owusu, many vulnerable girls and women use cloth rags lined with plastic sheets, cement paper bags, and dried plantain stems to menstruate because they cannot afford disposable sanitary towels.

The issue goes beyond Ghana. The worldwide effect is huge.

The World Bank reports that 500 million women are without menstruation products.

Menstrual hygiene amenities like clean water and toilets are also lacking.

What’s tax about?

Many menstrual health campaigners believe reducing “tampon taxes” would help women buy sanitary items.

Tampon tax includes sales tax, VAT, and additional taxes on feminine hygiene goods, including pads and menstruation cups.

Campaigners believe governments still see feminine products as luxury items rather than consumer goods or fundamental requirements; therefore, their tariff is equivalent to a “luxury tax” on non-essential things only affluent people purchase. Their taxes are frequently greater than those on basic commodities.

Kenya was the first to no longer tax period items in 2004. In 2016, it removed duties on sanitary pad basic materials.

Kenya had the lowest pad prices in our survey, with the cheapest period goods in 2023 costing 50 Kenya shillings (35 US cents; 27 UK pence).

However, female lawmakers and activists want further tax breaks to cut costs.

Since 2014, menstrual hygiene activist Nokuzola Ndwandwe has fought to eliminate VAT on period products in South Africa. She won a “monumental success” in April 2019 when the government eliminated the 15% VAT on sanitary pads and provided free sanitary towels in public schools.

Nokuzola Ndwandwe has spent years trying to repeal South Africa’s tampon tax.

Zero-rated countries that do not tax sanitary towels and enable producers to claim tax on materials have lower-priced goods.

Is tax exemption enough to provide women and girls pads?

One year after removing VAT on sanitary items, Tanzania reintroduced it in 2019. This followed customer complaints that store and market prices had not dropped.

Reintroducing the tax before the supply chain could change caused prices to rise, according to campaigners.

Millions of African and global women lack access to menstrual hygiene products owing to cost or lack of availability in rural or remote places.

There is no worldwide study on how many girls skip school due to their periods, but studies in various areas and nations show that thousands miss several days of school each year.

Pad drives are happening throughout Africa.

A Kenyan study indicated that 95% of menstrual girls missed one to three days a month, 70% had a negative effect on their academics, and more than 50% were falling behind in school.

Jegnit Ethiopia, founded by Marakie Tesfaye, advocates for tax exemptions and distributes reusable pad kits to Ethiopian girls.

“We uncovered statistics that indicated females in Ethiopia might skip as many as 100 days in a school year, and when they did, multiple things happened,” she adds.

“They would fall behind, retake a semester since there were no catch-up programs, abandon school, and marry or work as domestic servants with little possibility of ever improving their degree.”

Not simply women’s problems

Ibrahim Faleye began purchasing his sister’s menstruation pads at age 10. He felt every young guy in Lagos did it since he grew up around females.

I was astonished to learn that many families cannot afford sanitary pads. “We were an average household and could afford them, so I assumed it was the same for most families.

Seeing his sister’s experience motivated Ibrahim.

The 26-year-old public health practitioner runs Pad Bank, an NGO that fights period poverty and teaches guys not to shame ladies.

The Nigerian tradition forbids males from discussing menstruation, so we teach them to understand and care for women.

South African activist Nokuzola has endometriosis, which causes painful menstruation by growing tissue outside the uterus. Work was frequently difficult for her.

“I was on a male-dominated team and didn’t feel comfortable stating I was unwell. I felt humiliated, embarrassed, and concerned about my possibilities,” she adds.

“I thought about the millions of women going through the same situation. I decided to deconstruct the story and remove the period stigma.”

How does period justice look?

UNFPA describes period poverty as “the hardship many low-income women and girls experience while attempting to buy menstruation supplies.”

The UN defines menstruation hygiene as clean water, soap, toilets, latrines, and the power to use them privately without stigma and embarrassment, as well as menstrual education for boys and girls.

Nokuzola responds to research: “It’s unfortunate and frightening that a woman has to pick between bread, family, and period supplies.

“This monthly biological process requires you to give up your body’s autonomy for your family’s survival. Menstrual products should be free.”

To make period products a human right and prevent Joyce from having to take drastic steps to access them, Nokuzola is trying to create a menstrual health rights law in South Africa.

“We are suffering; I implore our government to eliminate the pad tax. We endure a lot to menstruate. Why should I beg or hunger for menstruation? Joyce feels it’s unfair. According to data, Ghanaian minimum wage workers spend one in seven dollars on sanitary pads.

They examined nine African nations to see how economical period products are. We discovered that many women cannot afford the local minimum wage or the cheapest sanitary pads.

Ghana has the most expensive menstruation supplies, but advocates are striving to end “period poverty” in Africa.

The short presentational grey line

Joyce, 22, from Ghana, cannot afford period products.

The only person willing to assist demands sex before giving me money. She told them, “I need pads for the month.”

In six nations surveyed by the OECD, minimum-wage women must spend 3–13% of their pay for two packages of sanitary towels with eight pads, which many require each month.

Joyce stays with a family friend and relies on tips as a grocery store clerk. Before, sanitary pads cost 4.88 Ghanaian cedis (45 US cents; 35 UK pence) per box.

The government raised sanitary product levies, making a package of pads cost 20 cedis.

Women protested outside Ghana’s parliament in June 2023 against price increases.

Ghanaians protested the period tax in June.

Joyce used toilet paper as pads, but when that failed, she felt out of options and fell into sexual demands for money for pads. Her problem is not unique.

The study calculated its conclusions using the minimum statutory pay in each of the nine nations surveyed and the lowest-priced pads locally.

Ghana has the most costly items each month.

A graph

Our study found that a Ghanaian woman earning $26 a month must pay $3, or $1 in every $7, to purchase two packs of sanitary towels with eight pads.

That implies that pads cost 11 cedis for every 80 cedis earned.

Women in the US and UK spend far less. US minimum wage workers spend $3 over $1,200.

According to Ghanaian Center for Democratic Development (CDD) researcher Francisca Sarpong Owusu, many vulnerable girls and women use cloth rags lined with plastic sheets, cement paper bags, and dried plantain stems to menstruate because they cannot afford disposable sanitary towels.

The issue is worldwide, not just in Ghana.

The World Bank reports that 500 million women are without menstruation products.

Menstrual hygiene amenities like clean water and toilets are also lacking.

What’s tax about?

Many menstrual health campaigners believe reducing “tampon taxes” would help women buy sanitary items.

Tampon tax includes sales tax, VAT, and additional taxes on feminine hygiene goods, including pads and menstruation cups.

Campaigners say governments still view feminine products as luxury items rather than consumer goods or basic necessities, so they tax them like a “luxury tax” on non-essential items that only wealthy people will buy and which is usually higher than on basic goods.

Kenya was the first nation to abolish VAT on period products in 2004 and on sanitary pad raw materials in 2016.

Kenya had the lowest pad prices in our survey, with the cheapest period goods in 2023 costing 50 Kenya shillings (35 US cents; 27 UK pence).

However, female lawmakers and activists want further tax breaks to cut costs.

Since 2014, South African menstrual hygiene activist Nokuzola Ndwandwe has worked to get VAT scrapped on period products. In April 2019, the government scrapped the 15% VAT on sanitary pads and announced free sanitary towels in public schools.

Nokuzola NdwandWe have spent years trying to repeal South Africa’s tampon tax.

Zero-rated countries that do not tax sanitary towels and enable producers to claim tax on materials have lower-priced goods.

Is tax exemption enough to provide women and girls with pads?

One year after abolishing VAT on sanitary items, the Tanzanian government reintroduced it in 2019 amid consumer concerns that prices had not been reduced in stores and marketplaces.

Reintroducing the tax before the supply chain could change caused prices to rise, according to campaigners.

Millions of African and global women lack access to menstrual hygiene products owing to cost or lack of availability in rural or remote places.

There is no worldwide study on how many girls skip school due to their periods, but studies in various areas and nations show that thousands miss several days of school each year.

Pad drives are happening throughout Africa.

A Kenyan study indicated that 95% of menstrual girls missed one to three days a month, 70% had a negative effect on their academics, and more than 50% were falling behind in school.

Jegnit Ethiopia, founded by Marakie Tesfaye, advocates for tax exemptions and distributes reusable pad kits to Ethiopian girls.

“We uncovered statistics that indicated females in Ethiopia might skip as many as 100 days in a school year, and when they did, multiple things happened,” she adds.

“They would fall behind, retake a semester since there were no catch-up programs, abandon school, and marry or work as domestic servants with little possibility of ever improving their degree.”

Not simply women’s problem

Growing up among ladies in Lagos, Nigeria, Ibrahim Faleye felt it was common for young men to purchase menstruation pads for his sister when he was 10.

“We were an ordinary household that could buy sanitary pads, so I thought other families could too. I was startled to learn many folks cannot afford the merchandise, “he says.

Seeing his sister’s experience motivated Ibrahim.

The 26-year-old public health practitioner runs Pad Bank, an NGO that fights period poverty and teaches guys not to shame ladies.

The Nigerian culture forbids males from discussing menstruation. We teach guys to understand and care for women.”

Endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue akin to the uterine lining develops outside it and makes menstruation uncomfortable, made South African advocate Nokuzola struggle at work.

In a male-dominated team, I didn’t feel comfortable reporting that I was ill. She claims she felt humiliated, embarrassed, and frightened about her chances.

“I considered the millions of women going through the same. I believed it was time to dismantle the narrative and abolish period stigma.”

How does period justice look?

UNFPA describes period poverty as “the hardship many low-income women and girls experience while attempting to buy menstruation supplies.”

The UN defines menstruation hygiene as clean water, soap, toilets, latrines, and the power to use them privately without stigma and embarrassment, as well as menstrual education for boys and girls.

After investigation, Nokuzola says, “It shouldn’t be. It is sad and worrying that a lady has to choose between food, family, and menstruation supplies.

“This is a normal, biological process that happens every month. Therefore you must sacrifice your body for your family. Menstrual products should be free.”

To make period products a human right and prevent Joyce from having to take drastic steps to access them, Nokuzola is trying to create a menstrual health rights law in South Africa.

“We are suffering; I want to petition our government to eliminate the tax on pads. The reality is that we are going through a lot just to menstruate. Why should I beg or starve myself? I believe it is not fair,” Joyce adds.

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