Liberia: House Petitioned to Remove Taxes on Sanitary Pads

Rep. Rustolyn Suacoco Dennis receives the petition on behalf of lawmakers at Capitol Building 

The Youth Champion for Menstrual Hygiene, a civil society organization, has petitioned the House of Representatives to remove taxes on sanitary pads in order to make them more affordable, accessible, and available for women and girls across the country. 

T. Motion Pusah and Esther Thomas from the Liberia Youth Champions for Menstrual Hygiene who read the petition said the adolescent girls and women of Liberia as well as citizens believe that removing taxes on sanitary pads is very necessary.

“We call on you the Women’s Legislative Caucus and the Committee on Gender, Children and Social Protection to support the call for the removal of 10 %(GST) and all taxes on sanitary pads imported and manufactured in Liberia,” the statement read.

“By removing taxes on sanitary products, you are also reducing the cost of pads, making pads affordable, accessible, and available to women and girls. This means demonstrating the empowerment of women and girls to live, learn and lead healthier lives,” the statement among other things added.. 

The September 20th event entitled “Her-Wash Regional Youth Workshop Advocacy Meeting with Women Legislative Caucus” held at a resort in Monrovia, was attended by 11 lawmakers including Bong County District #6 Representative Moima Briggs-Mensah; Margibi County District #3 Representative Ellen Attoh Wreh; River Cess County District#1 Representative Rosana Schaack; Montserrado County District #4 Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis; and Lofa County District #5 Beyan D. Howard and among others.

In rural parts of Liberia, access to sanitary pads is challenging for many women and girls. Pad is sold for L$300 or US$2.00. The situation sometimes leads to women and girls using cloth for menstrual purposes. 

According to information, a lack of hygienic products causes one in five girls to skip school or drop out to avoid chances of ruining their only school uniform or, because of this fact. caused their uniform to be ruined. 

Civil Society Organizations, government institutions, and donor partners have described access to affordable menstruation products in Liberia as a privilege for women and girls. 

Accordingly, stakeholders have stated that periods do not only take a physical toll on women and adolescent girls, they also impact women’s mental health and this particularly occurs when these women are just hitting puberty.

Montserrado County District#4 Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis who officially received the petition said the reason Liberia does not have sanitary pads in public areas is because the country is in a patriarchal society that is governed by man.

“When men are making decisions, they don’t mention it because they don’t see the need for sanitary pads to be in these places. However, there are general men and he’s for the men and men who are here today to champion this cause,” Dennis said.

Dennis promised to ensure that the leadership of both Houses received the petition and to ensure its subsequent passage into law. She, however, urged the petitioners to reach out to authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning as well as the President. 

Nimba County District #9 Representative and Chair on Rules, Orders and Administration, Johnson N. Gwaikolo, said the issue of menstrual hygiene remains everyone's business, emphasizing that men have their part to play to ensure that women and girls go through their natural periods.

“We are aware that discussing sanitary pads openly and publicly is a taboo, especially in cultural areas in Liberia. Women and girls must be healthy to promote good hygiene,” Gwaikolo said.

Gwaikolo said the decision to petition the lawmakers to pass a law is welcoming as it will help for the promotion of hygiene across Liberia. However, he said it will require further discussions to guide the process.

“You want us to pass a law that will abolish taxes associated with female hygiene products and make them accessible and affordable. This will make women and girls practice in a healthy way the natural things that people have to do,” Gwaikolo said.

Also speaking, Bong County District #6 Representative, Moima Briggs-Mensah promised to ensure that the petition is taken seriously by her colleagues. 

She said the passage of a law to remove taxes on sanitary pads would have been done long ago.

Representative Mensah said she was impressed with the participation of many of the members of the House at the event.

“These are people who when they say yes it is yes. When we want to move with women’s matters, they always give us support. WaterAid must be urged to ensure that water is provided to the community because we cannot fight this without water,” she said.

Country Director of WaterAid, Chuchu K. Selma said there has been progress made in educating women and girls in Liberia. 

Selma said WaterAid is working with a group in Grand Cape Mount County to educate young women and girls on the need to use sanitary pads.

“This project is intended to improve sexual reproductive health and rights for all adolescent girls and young women. It has to be done through menstrual health and hygiene. Now that we are tangling this by engaging stakeholders and the community to ensure that everyone can be responsive enough to the need and aspiration of all the requirements that are needed to ensure our girls have safe space,” Selma said.