Africa: Girls Are Dropping Out Of School In Massive Numbers Because Of The High Cost Of Sanitary Pads

Pad prices in Ghana have more than doubled in the last year, from 5 cedi to 12 cedi ($1.43) due to the country’s high inflation rate of 32%, which has made it difficult for low-income households to afford both food and sanitary supplies.

Experts and organizations believe the rising cost of pads in many African countries is a direct result of the worldwide issue of rising inflation, which is causing more girls to drop out of school or resort to less sanitary methods, which may lead to infections and infertility. ActionAid International, an organization that fights for the rights of women and girls, reported that the cost of a box of sanitary pads had jumped by 117% in Zimbabwe and by 50% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between January and April. Charities warn that this might aggravate gender inequality by affecting the education, health, and dignity of millions of African girls, leading them to engage in “transactional sex” with older men, and so on. Suganya Kimbrough of Catholic Relief Services expressed worry that “if costs continue to climb, our biggest fear is that women may avoid spending on health, such as on medications and sanitary products,” in order to prioritize spending on food and other things to sustain their family. Kimbrough, the East African region’s deputy director for program quality, said, “This may have a big influence on girls attending school and women earning their livelihoods.” As a result, families were missing meals and selling cattle to make ends meet. In addition to health hazards and schooling issues, throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls face period poverty, which is described as having insufficient access to menstrual hygiene knowledge, products, and facilities. Girls who experience stigmatization are more likely to skip school and may possibly quit completely. An estimated 20% of a school year may be lost due to periods among girls in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations.

Activists worry that the gender gap in educational success will widen even if these girls are able to finish school. Females who use paper, old rags, leaves, or even dried cow dung instead of sanitary products are putting themselves at risk for genital and urinary tract infections. Anita Asamoah, an independent public health advocate, has said, “Girls may develop general bacterial illnesses by utilizing bits of fabric.” If these infections are not treated properly, they may cause pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility. An infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries (known together as “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease”) may make pregnancy challenging, and it can also raise the risk of an ectopic pregnancy in the fallopian tubes. Some young women, strapped for cash, resort to having intercourse with older men, which may result in unplanned pregnancies and teen births. “Men have used the promise of free tampons to coax them into one-night stands.” “United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) staff member Adjoa Nyanteng Yenyi, whose work in Ghana focuses on adolescent sexual health, made the following statement. The number of teenage girls who get pregnant unintentionally is staggering. Ten percent of 15-year-old girls polled in rural Western Kenya had sex with males to get menstruation products, according to research conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost of tampon proponents is lobbying African nations to eliminate tampon tariffs, which are levied on period goods in the West. Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa are among the few nations that have done so. Pads are considered a luxury item in Ghana and are thus subject to a 20% import tax as well as a 12.5% value-added tax. In addition, activists argue that more nations should follow the lead of Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia by providing free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

($1 = 8.4000 Ghanaian cedi)


Paraphrased and Summarized from the following: “The Price of Period Pads Is Soaring & Pushing Girls Across Africa Out of School.” Global Citizen, http://www.globalcitizen.org, 19 Aug. 2022, https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/period-pad-prices-inflation-girls-missing-school/.

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