Savana Signatures acknowledges the statement issued by the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) on June 24, which urges the government not to remove the widely criticised 20 percent import tax on sanitary pads in Ghana. The AGI’s argument centres around the potential collapse of local businesses in the manufacturing of sanitary products and the resultant job losses. While we understand the concerns raised by the AGI, we believe that a stronger case can be made in favour of removing the import tax on sanitary pads.
In Ghana, menstrual products are classified by the Ghana Revenue Authority as finished goods or final consumer goods, and attract a 20 percent import duty coupled with an additional 15 percent VAT. These taxes make sanitary pads unaffordable and inaccessible, especially to low-income households, and has over the years triggered calls for the government to abolish the taxes. The government however appears adamant to the several calls by civil society groups and young people.
These taxes have occasioned period poverty in Ghana as many adolescent girls and low- income women are not able to afford menstrual products, which are necessities. While it is a fact that the cost of menstrual products keeps increasing by the day due to global economic challenges, the situation in Ghana is exacerbated by high import tax and VAT on these products. Averagely, it is estimated that girls and women menstruating spend between 30 to 40 cedis on menstrual products monthly in Ghana, an amount most of them, particularly the vulnerable and those in rural Ghana with low incomes, are unable to afford.
For young girls in particular, inadequate access to affordable sanitary pads is causing frequent absenteeism, and in some cases, school dropout. Girls who cannot afford sanitary pads often choose to stay home during their menstruation days, leading to missed school days. The disruption to their education due to lack of access to affordable menstrual products, can have long-term consequences on their academic performance and future opportunities.
Again, in the absence of affordable sanitary pads, some young girls, especially those in rural areas, resort to using unhygienic alternatives like rags and old clothes. These improvised materials which are not effective, result in poor menstrual hygiene and could lead to infections and reproductive health problems.
As an organisation that seeks the interest of the vulnerable population, especially women and girls, it is important for us to bring the mind of AGI to these issues so that they will be well-informed and guided by the issues whenever speaking about import duty on sanitary pads.
The affordability of sanitary pads is a critical issue that significantly affects the health and hygiene of young women. Particularly for girls and women in rural areas of Ghana, financial constraints make it challenging for them to afford sanitary pads, leading to unhygienic practices and potential health risks. By eliminating taxes on imported sanitary pads, their prices can be substantially reduced, ensuring greater accessibility and affordability for a larger portion of the population. This, in turn, will contribute to the overall well-being of young women and promote a healthier society.
It is thus unfortunate that the AGI’s statement seems to embolden the government to maintain the tax on sanitary pads. As an organization dedicated to championing reproductive health issues, we find this stance by the AGI contrary to the interests of women and young girls in Ghana who have long suffered financially from these taxes.
While we support the AGI’s call for the government to remove taxes on the importation of raw materials for the local production of sanitary pads, we find their argument against the removal of taxes on imported sanitary products unconvincing. It is important to note that Ghana operates in a free trade market and should not appear to be hindering the import sector, as the AGI suggests. It is also crucial to recognise the role of competition and consumer choice in a thriving economy like Ghana. Besides, trusting the production of sanitary pads solely to the local manufacturing sector, which the AGI acknowledges is already struggling, could be detrimental to the availability and affordability of these essential products.
The presence of imported sanitary pads not only offers a wider range of options for consumers, but it also drives innovation and improves the quality of locally manufactured products. Rather than protecting a few local manufacturers at the expense of consumer welfare, it is important to encourage healthy competition and provide consumers with diverse choices. This, we believe, will ultimately lead to better products and increased customer satisfaction.
We believe that the government can strike a balance by removing taxes on imported sanitary products while simultaneously incentivising local manufacturers. This would ensure competitiveness in the market and help lower the cost of sanitary products for women, especially those in the most remote areas of Ghana. It is crucial to prioritise the well-being of women and girls by ensuring their access to affordable and high-quality sanitary products, regardless of whether they are produced locally or imported.