Lifting of duty on sanitary wear hailed

HARARE - Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s move to scrap duty on sanitary wear has been hailed by campaigners who say it will cushion more women and girls urging the government to extend the waiver beyond 12 months.

Activists say removing the duty on pads tackles one of the biggest barriers to education for girls, who are often forced to stay at home due to a lack of access to clean hygiene products, while also facing stigma and a lack of toilets in schools.

Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)’s communications officer Mthokozisi Ndebele said the reprieve of import duty on sanitary wear should extend beyond the proposed 12 months.

“We note the reprieve is just for 12 months. We feel it should stay forever. Government should do more for women. We call for an increase in the access of sanitary wear for girls in schools, especially in the rural areas. We appreciate what has been done but we still feel more  can be done.

“Last year, former (Finance) minister (Patrick) Chinamasa had said he would scrap off duty on the material used for the manufacture of sanitary wear; that should still be pursued,” he said.

Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) said although the scrapping off of duty on sanitary wear comes as a relief to women, government should also ensure that free maternity services become a reality.

“We are excited; we are hoping for price regulation on sanitary wear. Women in the rural areas have not been able to access sanitary wear because of the high costs,” said ZWRCN director Dorothy Hove.

“Maternity health should also be prioritised. They say they have introduced free maternal healthcare services but women are suffering in the maternity wards. In the rural areas, women are asked to bring their own buckets, pins, candles and are also expected to buy their own painkillers which pharmacies are charging in US dollars.”

Hove said free maternal health services should also translate to free medication.

“Pregnant women should be able to access free health services which translates to free medication. Where does a woman in the rural areas access the US dollar?” she asked.

Hove said the tax reprieve should also extend to baby products, especially diapers whose prices were now beyond the reach of many mothers.

“Baby products are also beyond the reach of many mothers. One has to pay as much as $75 to $90 for a packet of diapers that won’t even last a month. A child cannot use one diaper per day, government has to provide reprieve on these products as well,” she said.

Theresa Nyava, the founder and executive director of Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe said although Ncube’s scrapping of duty and VAT on sanitary wear was “in order to cushion underprivileged women and girls”, it should be noted that the underprivileged are those who do not have any income at all to buy sanitary wear.


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