Some girls in Kwesitwikrom, a farming community in the Agona East District of the Central region, are being forced to sell oranges and coconuts to raise monies for sanitary pads in order to manage their menstrual flows.
Starr News’ Kojo Ansah reported of the disclosure on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, the day Ghana joined the world to observe menstrual hygiene day – instituted to raise awareness and combat misconceptions associated with menstrual hygiene as well as empower women and girls to achieve their potentials.
Extreme poverty, coupled with the unaffordability of sanitary pads in rural communities like Kwesitwikrom make it difficult for parents to provide their wards sanitary pads when they are menstruating, forcing many of the girls to resort to the use of unhygienic materials such as pieces of cloth, toilet rolls among others to manage their flows.
“At times, I do not have the money to buy pads so I tell my mother. If my mother doesn’t get it for me I use other materials like old clothes. That’s what I use as my pad,” one of the girls told Starr News.
She called on the government to support them in providing them with pads.
Also, Jenifer Atitso and Cecilia Antwi of Kwesitwikrom Junior High School face a similar challenge in buying sanitary pads.
“The first time I experienced menstruation I asked my mother for money to buy sanitary pads, but she didn’t,” said Cecilia.
Jenifer added, “Parents at times do not buy the pads for us so we use other materials.”
For Cecilia, she had to either sell oranges or coconuts to get money to buy sanitary pads to manage her monthly menstrual flow. “When my mother doesn’t have money I try to buy it myself by going for another job to work for money to buy it. I carry oranges and coconuts to buy it.”
Agenda and Influencing Specialist of Plan International Ghana, Lilian Bruce says girls using other materials other than sanitary pads are getting infections. She called for concerted efforts by parents and government to make sanitary pads available for girls.
“We have realised that over the years most girls drop out of school because they cannot manage menstruation, they begin to lose lessons and because of that at some point in time school is not interesting with menstruation and so they drop off,” she told Starr News.
She adds, “We have also realised that the use of other menstrual products like the clothes and all that also end up infecting them and also causing some damages to their reproductive systems.”
The District Coordinator for School Health Education Programme, Benedicta Felicia Acheampong pledged menstrual hygiene awareness would be intensified in the schools in the district.
Meanwhile, Government has been asked to review the 20% import tax on sanitary pads to enhance the health and education of Ghanaian girls.
J Initiative (JI), child-centred research and advocacy-based non-governmental organization said the classification of sanitary towels as luxury by the Ghana Revenue Authority has pushed underprivileged girls to use unhealthy absorbents.
“Once and for all, a lasting solution must be resorted to by removing or drastically reducing the 20% import tax on sanitary towels in Ghana in order to make that essential product available and affordable for all girls from regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds,” it said.