April 2, 2023

Top CSOs Demand Suspension of Taxes, Import Duties on Sanitary Pads

-want President Weah Issues Executive Order; petitioned lawmakers to amend the law

Several top civil society organizations including Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), Paramount Young Women Initiative (PAYOWI), and others are calling on President George M. Weah to issue an executive order suspending taxes and import duties on sanitary pads will impact women/girls’ access to sanitary pads making it more affordable and accessible.

“As Feminist in Chief, we ask you to publicly stand with the women and girls of Liberia like you have always done, to Tackle Period Poverty to enable women and girls to live, learn, lead and contribute meaningfully in their communities,” head of communication and mobilization at Community Healthcare Initiative, Nusone Euphemia Perkins who reads the petition said.

Ms. Perkins said the lack of a sanitary pad is a bleeding disgrace and thousands of Liberian women and girls do not have access to sanitary products, they use old clothes, socks, rags, and tissue, which may lead to health complications. The petition calls on the legislature to amend the law

According to her, a local Liberian study reported that the lack of access to sanitary products and services has contributed to girls’ underperformance in school, teenage pregnancy, early child marriages, and school dropouts.

“Menstruation is still treated as a taboo, contributing to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene education. Menstruation is a normal biological process, and women and girls should not have to suffer for it,” the petition said.

A recent UNESCO study on sub-Saharan Africa showed that 1 in 10 girls misses school during their menstrual cycle, and the missed days equals 20% of a school year.

“We ask the Government, through the Legislature, to amend the Revenue Code removing all taxes applicable to the importation and sale of sanitary pads in Liberia. We ask the Legislature to consider allocating funds toward Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the next annual budget,” the petition said.

The groups further call on the Ministry of Education to prioritize, invest, and accelerate efforts to ensure the teaching of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools. Ensure that all schools, public or private have sanitary pads available in their bathrooms.   

“We ask the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Liberia Revenue Authority to commit to working with the legislature to implement the amended tax policy, Regulate and monitor the price of sanitary pads on the market,” the petition added.

The Executive Director of Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), Naomi Tulay-Solanke said in late 2016, that CHI adopted a robust strategy that promoted the implementation of an annual menstrual hygiene campaign as part of CHI’s core projects.

Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said CHI launched the #pas4girls project, the local production of reusable sanitary pads for women and girls, to make access to sanitary pads more available and sustainable, an eco-friendly solution.

“We will continue to ask schools, public and private offices, businesses, government ministries, and development partners to commit to having sanitary pads in their bathrooms that can be located when and if there is an emergency for a woman 0r girl to use pads. So far, we have gotten 25 businesses and public/private offices to commit,” Mrs. Tulay-Solanke said.

Mrs. Naomi Tulay-Solanke said they are asking lawmakers to accept our petition to repeal the tax law and policy, where applicable, to remove taxes on sanitary pads and shift sanitary products from non-medical to medical.

“We are also calling on the First Lady of Liberia to join our voices in advocating for removing taxes on sanitary pads. With the first lady joining us in this fight, collectively, we are a step closer to solving period poverty in Liberia,” she said.

According to her, CHI in particular held numerous engagements at the local and national levels to normalize conversations about menstruation among parents, men, boys, adolescent girls, development partners, and the government and its ministries.

She said in 2017, CHI and other CSOs petitioned the Ministry of Education (MoE) to prioritize and teach menstrual hygiene management in schools as a standalone topic.

“We are also sending the public that Women and girls do not only bleed on International Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 28th. Women and girls bleed every month. Therefore, our individual or collective campaign must go beyond May 28th. After May 28, what happens? Women and girls continue to bleed,” she said.

Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI) is a feminist-led organization established in 2014 that is working to strengthen and promote healthcare, and social services to underserved women and children, focusing on adolescent girls.

Nimba County District #4 Representative Gunpue L. Kargon, Chair on Claims and Petitions who received that petition along with colleagues said they will lobby to ensure the amendment of the tax policy on sanitary pads.

“This petition looks interesting and I am more interested because I know some of my sisters and other women in classrooms and market grounds are being disgraced,” Representative Kargon said.  

Representative Kargon said he believes that the initiative is in the interest of the women of Liberia and remains to receive the necessary attention from his colleagues.  

Bong County District #6 Representative, Moima Briggs-Mensah said women’s matters are usually taken seriously by some of their colleagues and therefore, the petition will be taken seriously.

“I am a sister and a mother and if you are a man, anything concerning women must concern you too. We as females will work with our ‘he’s for she’ to work and ensure that our girls have sanitary pads free,” Representative Briggs-Mensah said.

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