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Malawi cuts tax on sanitary pads

The Malawian government has cut the 16.5% tax on sanitary pads to make them more accessible and affordable as part of a mission to end period poverty.

Approximately 80% of Malawians live in rural areas of the country.

With such a large portion of the population based in rural areas, most girls have little to no access to sanitary pads and those who do are considered to be in a privileged position.

Earlier this week, the government announced it would be cutting its 16.5% tax on sanitary wares to enable more accessibility and affordability of these products.

Making the announcement, the Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe said, ‘in the spirit of promoting girl child education, the government has listened to the contributions that came from various stakeholders and has consequently removed duty and excise tax on sanitary pads.’ This change will take effect from the beginning of April.

The announcement was welcomed by both national and international rights groups. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has been advocating for free sanitary pads issuance across Africa, applauded Malawi for its step to cut the tax to promote the well-being of a girl child.

In 2021, the organisation orchestrated a campaign across Malawi known as ‘A Necessity, Not a Luxury’ and donated 5 million sanitary pads.

Assisting vulnerable girls

According to UNICEF, Malawi has the 12th highest child marriage prevalence rate in the world. Additionally, 42% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 9% before the age of 15 respectively.

Despite the government committing to eliminate child marriages by 2030, the national human rights groups and international organisations have taken upon themselves to assist vulnerable girls in rural areas and provide educational resources.

A lack of sanitary pads is major cause of skipped lessons and an eventual drop out from schools, and the societal stigma around menstrual products often causes mental and emotional upset.

Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) has held different menstrual health campaigns in various parts of the country to inform the general public and girls on menstrual hygiene. The organisation also reaches out to village teenagers to teach how to make reusable sanitary pads.

The pads are made from locally available materials such as pieces of clean cloth, cotton and some fabrics which they learn how to sew, and can last up to a year through good maintenance.

Reusable pads

Across Africa, more support groups are introducing reusable pads to girls.

They are issued for free and are accessible to the majority of girls in rural and semi-urban areas. Through donations, countries such as Malawi have seen significant growth in the number of girls attending schools and completing their secondary education.

Through campaigns and educating the public on its use, more girls are able to attend school and reduce the stigma.


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