PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – A local NGO known as Community Healthcare Initiative is calling on the government to remove taxes on menstrual hygiene products to make it easier for girls to afford the items.
Speaking during the celebration of the World Menstrual Hygiene Day at the Calvary Chapel School in Paynesville, the organization’s executive director, Naomi Tulay-Solanke, appealed to the government to remove all taxes on products such as sanitary pads and tampons.
She said there are communities where girls do not use disposable pads because it is too expensive, especially for people who struggle to meet their daily needs.
When parents have not purchased food for the family, she said they do not prioritize purchasing sanitary pads.
“If government takes away the taxes from all sanitary pads, it’s going to be cheap, [and] more available in communities that are hard to reach. Business people will buy it because they know its something that will go every month,” she said.
While the government recently announced a reduction of tariffs on a variety of imports to ease the financial burden on families, it is not clear whether tariffs on menstrual hygiene products were waived, as the full list has not yet been released.
In the absence of a more affordable price for disposable menstrual hygiene products, Tulay-Solanke’s organization produces reusable pads for girls who cannot afford the disposable pads. Community Healthcare Initiative also works with women’s cooperatives to produce more of the reusable pads to reach more people in rural communities.
That effort can sometimes be filled with challenges due to negative cultural ideas associated with menstruation in some communities. To help with this, Tulay-Solanke said her organization is engaging the Ministry of Education to incorporate more information about menstrual hygiene and sex education into the national curriculum.
One of the students present during the World Menstrual Hygiene Day celebration was Naomi Bendo from the Kendeja School in Paynesville. She noted that it would be a good idea for girls to learn about menstruation before even experiencing it.
Bendo recalled being shocked when she first discovered menstruation during a physical education class.
“Imagine at the age of 13, I was shocked and afraid that I have hurt myself,” she said. “I cried a lot, not knowing it was part of my being. One of my friends came to me and told me stop crying that I didn’t hurt myself, but just had become a woman. I didn’t listen to her, I went home and told my mom who educated me on what to do.”
Bendo said if she had known more earlier on, it would have saved her the embarrassment.
World Menstrual Hygiene Day is an event annually celebrated on May 28 to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management.
Featured photo by Mafanta Kromah