GOVERNMENT has removed duty on sanitary ware, a move likely to be welcomed by women as the price of basic toiletries is now beyond the reach of many.
Gender activists and legislators have over the years pleaded with Government for duty free and subsidised sanitary ware, to no avail.
Speaking during yesterday’s pre-budget seminar in Bulawayo, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said it was a ‘done deal’ and he would announce it in the 2019 budget statement.
“The cost of sanitary ware and removing duty on it, consider it done,” he said. “We will have something on the budget on this issue of sanitary ware. Consider it done; there is no debate.”
In his presentation, chairperson of the portfolio committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development Cde Felix Mhona had proposed a subsidy for sanitary ware.
“Honourable Speaker Sir, concerns were raised over the cost of sanitary ware which is now beyond the reach of many and it was proposed that Government subside sanitary ware and consider giving it for free to all girls of school going age,” he said.
MDC-T Bulawayo legislator (proportional representation) Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who has been advocating for the cause for years, could not hide her joy at the news.
“I’m excited, although it has taken us almost two decades to get to a point where Government has agreed and it is a legacy that this particular Minister will take with him for a very long time,” she said.
“There is no VAT (Value Added Tax). So we are also not paying duty.”
Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga caused a stir when she brought a sanitary pad to Parliament last year in a bid to emphasise her point.
“So, from there we can now start talking of provision of free sanitary ware in primary and secondary schools because even for NGOs that wanted to assist, one of the major problems is that they were being hit by duty,” she said.
The cheapest pack of sanitary pads costs more than $2, while expensive brands go for up to $10.
Those who can afford the luxury of tampons have to fork out $4 for the cheapest one.
About 20 percent of rural school girls do not attend school during mensuration because they cannot afford sanitary ware.
Some girls have to share the same piece of cloth with their mothers to stem menstrual flow as they cannot afford proper pads.
Some of them reportedly use leaves, newspapers and cow dung, which can cause thrush, bruises, discomfort and diseases like cancer.