FOR a long time, Non- governmental organisations (NGOs), activists, some Members of Parliament and government officials have been campaigning for tax exemption on sanitary towels.
Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) is among NGOs that have been in the frontline to campaign for tax exemption and safe learning environment for girl students.
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report, it is estimated that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle.
By some estimates, this equals as much as twenty per cent of a given school year. Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating.
Should young women miss twenty per cent of school days in a given year due to a lack of facilities or a lack of information or a lack of sanitary products? This has been the main burning question among activists who campaign for girls’ rights.
Most girls end up not going to school, because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. Some schoolgirls, especially in poor rural areas, miss their studies every time during their menstruation period.
Girls from poor families cannot afford sanitary pads, and lack of decent changing washrooms contributes to their poor class attendance during their monthly periods. Last week, the government scrapped Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on sanitary towels.
According to Minister for Finance and Planning, the move aimed at enabling women to access sanitary towels at affordable prices.
The government decision to scrap VAT on sanitary towels means a lot to women across the country .The decision is a remarkable step that has been appraised by many stakeholders.
Those who spoke to the ‘Daily News’ said they will continue to press for towels as it is the case for (free)condoms, contraceptives and other stuff.
As a starting gear towards availability of free materials, Tanzania Women Parliamentary Group (TWPG) advised the government to issue incentives for investors to make majority introduce sanitary towel factories in the country.
The move, according to the Group Chairperson, Ms Margaret, will lead in to quantity of the products and enables manufacturers and suppliers to reduce prices in the name of competing for the markets while at the same time favouring the girls.
On the other hand, TWPG is holding talks with the government and other stakeholders on the possibility of conducting a survey to identify girls in schools who deserve free sanitary materials.
Ms Sitta went on that the time will come for Tanzania to offer free sanitary materials because all countries which have already embarked on free provision of sanitary towels started with tax exemption.
She added that apart from tax exemption and free towels, girls also need special toilets and rooms for changing. Ms Sitta affirmed that TWPG members have embarked on public campaign to advocate for availability of model toilets in every constituent.
Special Seats MP (Chadema), Ms Catherine Ruge commended stakeholders who initiated the towel tax exemption campaign saying they have contributed a lot in convincing the government to make right decision. She mentioned TGNP as among vibrant NGOs that have tirelessly campaigned for the matter.
She said TGNP provided supporting materials to TWPG which helped MPs to table and defend the idea in the August House.
She said that TGNP offered materials that showed how other countries have managed to help girls through tax exemption on sanitary towels. She mentioned some of the countries as South Africa, Kenya and Rwanda.
The activist from TGNP, Ms Grace Kisetu commended the government for the positive response to the matter. She said the government decision will help girls especially those in school to attend classes and record good performance without problems.
According to Ms Kisetu, TGNP has already initiated the programme for free sanitary materials through awareness and capacity building campaigns in some areas.
The idea, according to Ms Kisetu has already materialised in Mbeya, Kisarawe and Kishapu districts. It is in record that some town councils have been setting aside budget for free sanitary towels in schools.
She affirmed that TGNP will continue with capacity building programmes county-wide, to make sure all girls are reached.
Soon after the government 2018/19 was tabled in the House, TGNP Mtandao through the Kijiwe cha Kahawa 2018, was caught in celebrations after the Minister Mpango announced the scrapping of VAT on sanitary pads.
TGNP Executive Director, Lilian Liundi commended the government’s effort in ensuring girls are safe and cared during their monthly periods.
“From the minister’s announcement, this is a huge result for TGNP Mtandao and other human rights actors since the issue of sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene management has been a cry for a long time.
We are glad to see our government addressing issues of women and girls, she said