“WE WANT DUTY FREE ON ALL SANITARY PADS IMPORTATION” Women Rights Groups, Others Rally Liberian Government

By: Jerromie S. Walters

Liberia: As part of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day celebration, A conglomeration of women rights organizations in Partnership with ActionAid Liberia, are calling on national government to ensure that the importation of sanitary pads is duty free. The call is intended to ensure that Sanitary Pads are affordable, and accessible for women and girls across Liberia.

Addressing a major media engagement following the climax of its intensive awareness on menstrual hygiene recently, the groups indicated that there is a need for the provision of sanitary dignity for all women and girls.

The groups’ quest concurs with the global celebration of Menstrual Hygiene Day which seeks to address the many challenges women and girls are often confronted with in attending to, or maintaining their menstrual cycle.

However, the partner group ActionAid Liberia believes menstruation is a normal part of women and girls’ life cycle and it is neither a sickness, nor a disease, as such, access to sanitary dignitary kits and safe hygiene facilities is part of their basics needs and human rights.

The Organization further stressed the need for the availability and affordability of pads in all public spaces including banks, religious and traditional institutions schools, marketplaces, tax ranks, along the road sides for distance users, as well as at the various prison facilities.

Amongst others, the NGO maintained that
the provision of adequate safe space with clean and hygienic washing facilities where women and girls can safely change themselves during their menstrual period, is also cardinal to the well-being of women and girls.

The conglomerating groups under ActionAid Liberia also called on national government to
make a must law for all offices, companies, and organizations in Liberia to put sanitary and dignity kits, including make and female condoms on all bathrooms, which they believe, aligns with the fulfillment of the Gender Responsive Public Services(GRPS) promised by the George M. Weah led administration.

In a brief statement at the end of the awareness, ActionAid Liberia Program Coordinator, Gloria Yancy expressed strong desire in acquiring a positive feedback in regards to their suggestions and recommendations to the Liberian government.

“We are looking forward and looking to hear from them that we have duty free sanitary pads importation in Liberia, and we are ensuring that all of our public facilities have safe drinking water, have established dignity kits”, she intruded.

Glorai further asserted, “We want our President George Manneh Weah to declare an executive order to ensure that we have duty and tax free sanitary pads importation in the country for affordability to all without discrimination”.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is an annual awareness day globally scheduled for May 28 of every year, to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) at a global level. It was initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2013 and observed for the first time in 2014.

The general theme for this year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day is, ‘Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’.

During the awareness program, a representative of Liberia Women Empowerment Network, Cecelia K. R. Cole blamed traditional beliefs and society for denying kids menstrual education, especially from the onset.

She characterized the observance of the day as being worth to celebrate, especially considering how NGOs have been committed in ensuring that the needed messages are given to women and girls in regards to their menstrual cycle.

“Looking at this day today I’m very happy I know that we are getting somewhere because years back people couldn’t discuss menstruation home, if you are menstruating it becomes a taboo, so coming up now the young girls, we want our government to make it duty free” she lamented.

Perki Kine a member Of Healing Mind Initiative, a group under ActionAid Liberia, is unarguably one of the many ladies who have underwent stigmatization by the observance of her menstrual cycle.

“I can remember once, when I was still in high school, I had an experience, I went to school not knowing that I was on my period, and during recess period I had to go out to get lunch, so while getting up, it came heavily and I had a lot of boys that were sitting behind me, they disrespectfully called my attention and it was a kind of horrible moment,” she said.

Following her active involvement with ActionAid through different menstrual hygiene campaigns, Perki is now fully educated that menstruation is natural, and it’s every woman’s proud.

Menstruation is the process in which a woman discharges blood and other fluids from the lining of the uterus at intervals of about one lunar month from puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is intrinsically set aside for publicizing information in the media, including social media, and to engage decision-makers in policy dialogue. The day aims to advocate for the integration of menstrual hygiene management into global, national and local policies and programs.

In developing countries, women’s choices of menstrual hygiene materials are often limited by the costs, availability and social norms. Adequate sanitation facilities and access to feminine hygiene products are important but open discussion and providing adequate education for women and girls is of equal importance.

ActionAid Liberia in keeping with global workings, kick started the menstrual hygiene day celebration ahead of the stipulated date, through major awareness at schools, communities, public and private entities, and climaxed with a campaign walk with hundreds of women and girls wearing red, from Vamoma House in Sinkor, to central Monrovia (Broad and Mechlin Street Intersection ).

ActionAid Liberia (AAL) is a human rights and social justice organization operating in Liberia since 1997 to advance the rights of women, children, young people, excluded and marginalized communities and shift the development paradigm to one that is people-centered, utilizing our human rights-based approach (HRBA) and an intersectional feminist analysis across all programs, campaigns, policy, advocacy and partnerships.

In taking sides with the most excluded, this has meant that AAL is often present in rural and physically hard to reach communities. AAL’s interventions and advocacies are aligned to solidarity with the struggles of communities and groups they work with. They are known for a non-negotiable stance on human rights, especially as it pertains to the rights of women and the most excluded in the Liberian society.

AAL is part of ActionAid International Federation headquartered in Johannesburg with member organizations present in 45 countries around the world, sharing common values and efforts to drive social change towards a more just and sustainable world.

ActionAid’s vision is to ensure a just, equitable and sustainable world in which every person enjoys the right to a life of dignity, freedom from poverty and all forms of oppression.

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