Rwanda has become the first country to scrap the tax on sanitary pads. The move, according to Rwandan authorities, intends to create a favorable environment for poor female students who are often forced to skip school during their periods.
A pack of ten sanitary pads currently goes for around 1,000 Rwandan Francs ($1.07). The products were previously subjected to an 18% VAT.
"For many girls and women, especially in rural areas, the cost of pads is too high. Many still rely on reusable cloth pads which is risky because they are more likely to get infections," women's activist Saidath Murorunkwere said.
A study conducted in 2017 by the education ministry showed that girls aged 16 and above were eight per cent more likely to drop out of school than boys, especially in rural areas, with lack of access to sanitary pads during menstruation cited as one of the reasons for this.
"The Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability," the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion announced on its website and on Twitter Wednesday.
The victory came after fierce lobbying from feminist groups and NGOs urging the government to act to reduce the price of sanitary pads in the country. However, the battle is far from won. Annette Mukiga, a feminist activist in Rwanda told AFP, "This is a step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution. It is a shame that girls have to drop out of school just because of a biological process, so it is a good step for what the government is trying to do. Our target is to make sure that sanitary pads are free, not just cheap but free in all schools so that girls do not have to worry about this challenge anymore."
Kenya was the first country to abolish the tax on menstrual products (tampon tax) which it did in 2005. In recent years, other countries have been following suit. Tanzania, however, abolished that tax in 2018 and then re-introduced it this year amongst other taxes that were seen to specifically target women.