The Lady Pharmacists Association of Ghana (LAPAG) has called for an end to "period poverty", urging the government and policymakers to create a system that provides free period products for anyone who needs them in our basic and second cycle schools.
"These institutions must have a range of period products available for free in their washrooms, particularly in the rural communities, it said."
Period poverty, defined as the lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management and education, is said to affect over 500 million people worldwide. It is said to cause physical, mental and emotional difficulties for women and girls.
As the world marked Menstrual Hygiene Day last Sunday, LAPAG made simultaneous donations to various girls' groups and institutions across the country to support and sensitise women and girls to menstrual hygiene.
The association consequently appealed to the government to "remove the 20 per cent import tax on sanitary products, exempt these products from the 12.5 per cent Value Added Tax and implement price control mechanisms to make these essential products more affordable and accessible.”
"Additionally, the government should consider subsidising these products in the interest of hygiene and health," it added, stressing that "affordable?menstrual health is a major public health and human rights issue, and a matter of dignity for many low-income menstruators.”
"In a statement signed by its Chairperson, Mrs Lucia Addae-Ntiri, LAPAG said: "In Ghana, it is well documented that many adolescent girls stay out of school during their menses because of the lack of sanitary pads and basic sanitation facilities to meet their privacy requirements."
According to a recent report by UNICEF, about 95 per cent of girls in rural communities in Ghana miss around 20 per cent of their school hours due to the lack of access to sanitary pads.
"Many young girls and adolescents who menstruate are forced to use inadequate materials to build makeshift products or use period products for a prolonged time — in both cases, increasing the chance of reproductive and urinary tract infections among other harmful outcomes.
“Odour and leakages become a challenge, and for schoolgirls, these negative experiences of menstruating can lead to low self-esteem, discomfort, distraction, absenteeism and even dropping out of school," it noted.
It urged the government to "ensure a positive and supportive environment that allows menstruating girls and women to participate in all aspects of life, going to school and work, sport, employ zero tolerance to dirty jokes about menstruation, provide reproductive health education (focusing on puberty and menstruation) to boys and girls in the school in order to destigmatise menstruation and ensure improved sanitation infrastructure (hand wash facility, disposal mechanisms and privacy)."
It said addressing those issues and ensuring that menstrual hygiene products were considered essential could "help to improve the health and well-being of girls and women in Ghana and beyond. "LAPAG wants to take this opportunity to applaud activists and political leaders, governments, NGOs, donor agencies and others who are increasingly devising policies to make sanitary products more accessible, not only through tax reduction, but also other measures such as subsidies or free distribution," the statement added.