HARARE – The price of sanitary wear has shot through the roof despite the fact that importers of raw materials used to manufacture them are not paying any duty at the ports of entry.
Beginning this year, government scrapped duty on sanitary wear raw material to make the products affordable and increase access by women following a strong push by legislators.
A survey by the Daily News revealed, however, that pads that were fetching around $0,89 have gone up in prices by as much as 124 percent to $1,99.
Other sanitary wear products are going for as much as $2.
In most supermarkets surveyed, products such as panty liners have become scarce.
Locally manufactured pads have also disappeared from supermarket shelves.
Matabeleland South legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga expressed dismay yesterday at the failure by local companies to reflect the duty reduction in their prices.
She said when she took the local companies to the then Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa as they lobbied for the zero-rating of duty on sanitary wear; manufacturers had agreed to lower their prices within a few months of scrapping duty on raw materials.
This forced Misihairabwi to pull all the stops to get the minister’s to suspend duty on sanitary wear raw materials.
“I have so far not seen the reduction in prices even on locally manufactured sanitary wear,” said Misihairabwi.
“The increases of the imported one make sense now because of the issues to do with acquiring foreign currency. If the local manufacturers are failing to do what they said they would, then there is no reason to protect them. Maybe we should reconsider the position we took. I will definitely be taking the issue back to Parliament because we were expecting the basic pads to be around $0, 25,” she added.
Lack of access to sanitary products has been cited as impeding girls from attending school consistently, particularly in the rural areas.
Sanitary pads are a very critical component for women and girls’ reproductive health requirements but owing to their exorbitant cost, most are having to look for alternatives some of which could have after effects in the long run.
Rural women and girls are said to be the most affected to the extent that some of them go for as far as using leaves, animal hides or rags as sanitary pads.
Studies have shown that providing a girl with underwear and sanitary pads may increase her chances of staying in school by more than 30 percent.
Experts reason that you start to see a real difference in rates of school attendance for boys and girls as they move from primary school to secondary school.
They say if a girl does not have access to sanitary pads or a safe and clean place at school to change them, that becomes another reason to keep her home.
She starts missing a few days every month, she falls behind, and she may eventually drop out.
In fact, some small studies in a number of African countries found that if you provide a girl with underwear and sanitary pads, her chances of staying in school are 30 to 50 percent higher.
Keeping girls in school is important to health and development—not only for the girls but for their communities and countries.
When girls stay in school, they are less likely to get HIV infection, wages go up, teenage pregnancy rates go down, and the children they have are healthier. You educate a girl and you change the world.
Outspoken Norton legislator Temba Mliswa recently questioned government’s priorities adding there was enough money to buy male condoms which are distributed for free yet there is no money to buy pads for girls and women.
“…the issue of the girl-child is critical and cannot be delayed any further. Government has got money to buy condoms which are available for free but sanitary wear is not available for free.
“Is it because of misplaced priority because condom money is there but sanitary wear money is not there? So, where are the priorities and it cannot be a money situation.
“…this is a serious matter that cannot be further delayed. These things must be here like yesterday, not tomorrow,” said Mliswa
When Misihairabwi lobbied for the reduction in duty, she spoke of how for a long time, the Finance minister had refused to discuss sanitary wear because he felt menstrual issues were not right issues to discuss in public.
She was later introduced by Chinamasa to an aide in his office who took two days to do what Misihairabwi and others had been asking the minister to do for many years.
“Basically, she called the producers of sanitary wear to a meeting, to which I attended, discussed with them why sanitary wear was expensive and before I knew it, we agreed that we were not going to have the materials used to produce sanitary wear carry import duty. Thankfully, today I had to use sanitary pads, so I went and bought them,” she revealed, back then.
The next step was, however, for government to provide for free sanitary wear to young girls in school.
“I just want to thank the minister, after all these years begging him to do something about sanitary wear; we see that he actually did something about it,” Misihairabwi said during a budget debate in Parliament early this year,” Misihairabwi said in thanking Chinamasa.