Participants at a “Menstrual Hygiene Summit” in Accra have encouraged the Government to institute policy measures to support local manufacturers of sanitary pads to produce more to ensure affordability and accessibility to teenage girls and women.
The summit, on the theme: “Harnessing Efforts; Making Menstruation a Normal Fact of Life by 2030,” brought together women groups, health experts, parliamentarians, educationalists and regulatory bodies to deliberate on ways to make sanitary materials accessible and affordable.
The call follows increasing appeals by civil society organisations to the Government to scrap the 20 per cent import taxes and 12.5 per cent Value Added Tax on sanitary products, which made them expensive for most vulnerable girls and women.
The stakeholders also urged government to provide sanitary facilities and changing rooms in all basic schools to promote menstrual hygiene among teenage girls.
Alhaji Mohammed Awal Alhassan, the Executive Director of Norsaac, an organisation working in the areas of sexuality and reproductive health and rights, and the convenor of the summit, said menstrual health issues affected the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing of teenage girls and women, hence the need to make sanitary materials more accessible to them.
Menstruation was an essential part of a woman’s life, he said, therefore making sanitary materials available and affordable would ensure that “female period” was conducted in a safe and dignified environment.
Norsaac, over the years, had worked with women groups and youth networks to create awareness on menstrual hygiene, social protection, better education outcomes and economic empowerment of teenage girls and women.
Hajia Lamnatu, the Executive Director of Songtaba, an NGO interested in girls’ protection and empowerment, said some girls could not afford sanitary pads during their menses and, thus, resorted to the use of unhygienic materials, exposing them to various infections.
“Menstruation is not a death sentence. Sanitary pads should be made available to our teenage girls so that their 'periods' are done in a safe and dignified environment,” she said.
She cited instances where some men took advantage of vulnerable girls whom they provided financial support to purchase the products, resulting in teenage pregnancies.
“In some communities, girls are stigmatised and socially excluded during their menses, and this affects their productivity and psychological welbeing,” Hajia Lamnatu said.
Mr Rowland Sefakor, the Head of Medical Devices, Food and Drugs Authority, said three companies were producing sanitary materials in the Tema Free Zone area but advocated that more local manufacturers went into production of those materials to beat down the cost.
The FDA, in collaboration with the Ghana Standards Authority, in 2019, developed standards for accessing the quality of sanitary materials imported and produced locally.
That had enabled the Authority to clampdown on substandard sanitary materials on the market, Mr Sefakor said.
A post-market survey conducted by the FDA in 2019 showed that 70 per cent of sanitary materials did not meet the required standards, hence it took stringent measures to retrieve those from the shelves and fined the suppliers and distributors, he said.
Mr Cletus Seidu Dapilah, the MP for Jirapa in the Upper East Region, who chaired the function, urged political parties to show commitment in their 2024 Manifestoes to scrap the 20 per import duties on sanitary materials.