Rwanda: Activists Urge Collective Effort to Ease Access to Sanitary Pads

On May 28, the world observed the Menstrual Day. The Day serves to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management.

In an effort to make sanitary pads more affordable and accessible, the Government removed Value Added Tax on the products in December 2019. However, prices largely remained unchanged and in some cases increased instead.

Now activists are calling for collective efforts from members of the public to toward making period products accessible to more women and girls, with some already running social media campaigns to help ease the burden.

They hope this will supplement government's effort, which they say itself needs scaling up.

Speaking to The New Times, Diane Uwamariya, of Health Development Initiative, emphasised the need for the public to be engaged further in order to find a lasting solution.

She said greater awareness could lead to a sustainable solution.

Isabella Akaliza, founder of Period Poverty initiative, which seeks to ease menstrual burden for schoolgirls, reckons that there is a lot that can be done if "menstrual hygiene is given the priority it deserves."

For instance, she said, "the Government can heavily subsidise the production of period products. It could also channel resources toward provision of free period products."

Non-Government Organizations, she added, could help by "equipping communities to produce local products."

In regards to period poverty, Akaliza's initiative has started a new social media campaign dubbed Safe to Bleed that aims at advocating for the use of reusable pads because of their affordability, socio-economic impact, sustainability, and how they are a better alternative for the environment.

It will run for 20 days, she said.

They are also donating period products to health centres.

Divine Ingabire, Co-founder and Executive Director of IMatter, which is spearheading an effort to provide vulnerable women with free sanitary pads, said members of the public should throw their weight behind such campaigns.

They have so far collected 3,000 sanitary pads, she said.

According to UNICEF, over 18 per cent of girls in Rwanda miss, on average, three to five days of school because they can't access menstrual products.

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