Tanzania’s economic backbone sector employs more than 60 per cent of women. Yet, past experiences have shown Tanzanian women and girls suffocating from the inadequate access of sanitary towels, especially for those living in rural areas. Notably, two weeks ago we joined the big budget winners, women and girls, as the Tanzanian government announced tax exemption on sanitary towels. The sanitary towels gap has been a clearly local development problem, nevertheless, it provided immense market opportunity for impact-driven and innovative social-preneurs in Tanzania.
The exemption of Value Added Tax(VAT) on sanitary pads is a compelling solution from both an economic and social point of view towards the enhancement of Tanzania’s industrialization initiative.
Low access to these sanitary products led to maternal health complications and infections which came with withdrawing women and girls from different economic productive activities they were involved in. Unaffordable prices, low access to these products and lack of menstruation education became the giant bottlenecks curbing the supply side of these products.
What is the economic insight now after the VAT exemption on the sanitary towels? Does this imply more imports on the sanitary products? Hard to say. But to enhance the industrialization drive in the country, tax exemption on sanitary towels is a short run unsustainable benefit which is volatile. But indeed, a remarkable achievement worth the celebration for the first step taken since independence. In fact, the most well know sanitary products in our market are more import-based. Not to mention, the local sanitary producing industries have not yet proved to claim a competitive space in the market arena. Equally important, this matter highlights the necessity of the government to create a promising enviroment for the local producers. If the bigger picture is to support the supply side of these products, we need to rethink on manufacturing locally and at good quality.
The key to the long run improvement of the social welfare of women and girls relies on a sustainable solution from the supply side of the sanitary towels.
Major sustainable solutions to support the increase of affordable sanitary towels, will come if the locally owned and operated factories muscle up, with help from government.