What Kenya Can Teach The U.S. About Menstrual Pads | Source: NPR, May 10, 2016 |
The United States is only just starting to get periods — or, at least, acknowledging that products for “that time of the month” aren’t optional for menstruating women.
In 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, pads and tampons are subject to sales tax. Earlier this year, when President Obama was asked why they haven’t been exempted like other necessities, he said, “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
But there’s a movement to fight these taxes, and several states have eliminated them. Next up: New York, which has just passed a bill that’s awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
Meanwhile, one country is way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to understanding that pads and tampons shouldn’t be taxed.
Kenya repealed its value added tax on pads and tampons back in 2004 to lower the price consumers pay. And since 2011, the Kenyan government has been budgeting about $3 million per year to distribute free sanitary pads in schools in low-income communities.
That’s not to say Kenya is an ideal place to get one’s period. Many Kenyan girls still don’t have access to sanitary products, so they use unhygienic materials like chicken feathers, cheap mattresses and newspapers to fashion makeshift pads, says Megan White Mukuria.
Mukuria is the founder of ZanaAfrica Foundation, which delivers health education — and sanitary pads — to help girls stay in school. A girl who is embarrassed to stain her uniform (or has an infection) is one who is likely to skip class and eventually drop out, Mukuria explains. UNESCO estimates that more than two million Kenyan girls need support in order to get menstrual hygiene products.
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