AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Africa Bureau today applauded the decision of the Malawi government to remove taxes on sanitary pads. The news of duty and excise tax exemption for sanitary products is a win for organizations and stakeholders, including AHF Malawi, who have championed this advocacy due to the crucial role affordability and accessibility of sanitary pads play in girls’ education and their well-being.
“We commend the government for this bold move. Reducing the cost of sanitary pads will increase access to this important commodity to girls and consequently increase their school attendance and performance. This is a dream come true and an aspiration of every prosperous country,” said Triza Hara, Country Program Manager, AHF Malawi. “We look forward to a time when the government will take this a step further and provide free sanitary pads to poor, school-going girls whose parents struggle to provide clean, sanitary pads to the girls every month,” she added.
According to a UNESCO report, 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual periods, which is about 20% of a given school year, and so many more drop out of school completely once they start menstruating due to a lack of sanitary pads and menstrual health services. Beyond menstrual health services, there have been growing concerns about how the lack of access to sanitary pads puts young women and girls at risk of contracting HIV.
“When young women and girls miss out on schooling, it increases their risks of being targets for transactional sex and acquiring HIV. They also miss out on critical health information and education that empowers them to make more informed choices,” explained Oluwakemi Gbadamosi, Director Advocacy, Policy and Marketing, AHF Africa Bureau.
“This kind of progressive decision is not only emboldening for girls but will have a profound, lasting impact in keeping them in school, living productive lives and staying healthy —which includes reducing risks of HIV. We congratulate the government of Malawi for joining an increasing number of countries on the continent that have removed taxes on sanitary pads and hope this inspires many more to tow this path,” she stressed.
The advocacy around sanitary pads is a pillar of the AHF Girls Act program, an initiative that empowers young women and girls with information and services on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, menstrual hygiene management, school scholarships, and psychosocial support for better health outcomes. Additionally, in 2021, AHF launched its five million sanitary pads campaign drive dubbed “A Necessity, Not a Luxury!”, which reinforced the need for collective action towards championing menstrual health support for girls.