period poverty in Ghana
Ghana, formally known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to achieve independence from British colonial rule. Ghana is a leading country in Africa but continues to struggle with poverty. Period poverty in Ghana is a prevailing issue, especially in rural areas. One study in the Zabzugu and North Dayi districts found that 95% of girls in the region missed school due to menstruation.

The causes of period poverty vary. However, the key factors are affordability, lack of education on periods and a dearth of access to menstrual materials. Grassroots and international organizations have stepped in to help solve these issues. An end to period poverty in Ghana is achievable through various strategies.

Eliminating the Tax on Menstruation Materials

 In Ghana, there is currently a 20% import tax on menstruation materials because the country considers them a “luxury” item. This creates a price increase that makes it difficult for families in low-income households to afford these items. An income report on rural Ghanaian cocoa farmers, for example, estimated a monthly income of GHS 1,464 equating to about $329 USD.

The estimated cost of one pad in Ghana averages to about GHS 5. Organizations that support healthy menstruation management, like J-Initiative, believe the Ghanaian government should remove the tax on these materials. #FREEMYPERIOD and #DONTTAXMYPERIOD are just a few of the grassroots campaigns created by advocacy groups urging Ghana’s government to consider menstruation materials as essential.

Recently, Ghanaian youth activists were successful in a six-month-long NOPADTAX campaign. Organizers garnered 2,000 signatures for a petition advocating for the removal of the tax. They presented the petition to the Ghanaian government on Menstrual Hygiene day, May 28, 2020.

The Ghanaian government heard the call for change and responded with a promising answer. At a political event held on August 22, 2020, Ghana’s vice president Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia said that “We will eliminate import duties on sanitary pads to improve health conditions, particularly for girls. It is very important. What we intend [on] doing is to make sure we produce sanitary pads in Ghana [and] until that happens in their numbers, we are going to eliminate import duties to bring down their cost.” Organizers view this as a prominent step toward ending period poverty in Ghana.

Manufacturing at Home

Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed manufacturing menstrual materials like sanitary pads and reusable sanitary cloths. Organizations like Days For Girls have been working to create alternative solutions to combat period poverty across the globe. This organization employs local women and girls to produce reusable sanitary pads utilizing local materials.

The Ghanaian chapter of the Days for Girls organization has provided 10,000 girls across all 10 regions of Ghana with free menstruation kits through its initiative. Many Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed grassroots manufacturing initiatives for menstruation materials as an economically and environmentally sustainable solution. Organizers believe that manufacturing menstruation materials on the ground would reduce costs and increase accessibility for these vital products.

Providing Menstrual Supplies

Providing menstruation supplies is another proposal to combat period poverty in Ghana. The Global Partnership for Education and DFID has offered to fund possible scholarship programs that seek to supply sanitary pads and school supplies for girls living in rural Ghana.

The Muslimah Mentorship Network, a Ghanaian based organization, created a campaign entitled #1Girl12Pad. This campaign aimed to provide menstruation materials and education on menstruation hygiene for Ghanaian girls. The group visited a school located in the northern region of Ghana and provided almost 300 girls with 12 packs of sanitary pads each, which is enough to last a whole year. The organization’s goal is to implement the campaign in three schools in each region of rural Ghana.

These kinds of initiatives also hope to encourage girls to continue to attend school while menstruating.

Education on Menstruation

Ghana has a variety of misconceptions and stigmas about menstruation. A popular belief is that menstruation is unclean, leading to mismanagement in menstrual hygiene. Organizations are taking the steps to educate both young women and men about menstruation. With proper education, Ghanaian girls will be better equipped to manage their periods and feel more confident with the idea of menstruating.

Advocacy groups hope that Ghana will place more importance on the value of proper menstrual hygiene and menstrual supplies through this increased knowledge. Education on menstruation is a vital tool in helping to reduce misinformation and stigma surrounding menstruation.

Normalizing Healthy Menstrual Hygiene Management

A healthy understanding of how to manage menstruation is vital. Menstrual hygiene management offers coping mechanisms to girls who suffer from cramps, headaches and other side effects of menstruation. Reports state that these coping skills help encourage girls to continue attending school while on their period.

One study on menstrual health management reports that pain was the leading cause of girls missing school. Healthy menstrual management combats this while also providing girls with crucial information on proper hygiene practices, like changing sanitary pads. Menstruation management can counteract the likelihood of hazardous practices that can lead to infection.

Period poverty is a prevailing issue in Ghana. However, there are many efforts to provide sustained solutions. Education on menstruation, healthy menstrual hygiene management and supply distribution and the elimination of the import tax on menstruation materials provide a feasible way to end period poverty in Ghana. 

Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr