South African Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni announced on Wednesday a series of measures to stimulate the South African economy, including promoting economic reforms and investing in education, health, and infrastructure.
Amid this broad policy proposal was a step toward improving access to gender equality.
As reported by the Sunday Times, the policy statement highlights the economic and fiscal issues that the South African government is facing in the medium term and places an emphasis on strengthening private and public sector investments to support inclusive economic growth. The most significant allocations in the statement were made to education‚ health‚ social development, and community development.
More specifically, the government committed to abolishing the tax on all menstrual products and ensuring that girls have access to sanitary pads in schools. Several provinces have taken the lead in providing free sanitary pads in schools, but additional funds will assist more provinces in following suit.
Global Citizen welcomes these steps that reinforce the South African government’s commitment to ending poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. In the last two months, over 86,000 actions were taken by Global Citizens to urge the South African government to fund free pads for people in need, in addition to ensuring safe toilets, introducing quality lessons on menstrual health in schools nationwide, and ending the tax on menstrual health products.
Across South Africa, too many girls are forced to use scraps of cloth, newspaper, or tree bark because the limited funds their families have are used to put food on the table. This injustice keeps girls out of school and women from participating in the workforce, holding everyone back. Policy commitments, such as cutting the tax on sanitary pads starting next April, will certainly alleviate the financial pressures faced by girls and women, especially those who live in lower-income households.
However, more action is required if we are to truly give these girls and women the dignity that they deserve. Global Citizen is still campaigning for the South African government to commit $58 million per year, over the next two years, to jumpstart a program to ensure free sanitary pads and products for all girls in no-fee government schools grades 4 through 12. To truly be effective, this commitment needs to be rolled out in combination with menstrual health education for girls and boys in no-fee schools.
Without the proper education, the period taboo will not be broken and girls may not know how to use pads appropriately, which can cause health complications such as infections, and embarrassment or shame.
Mboweni also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to eradicating pit latrines at schools, which has been an urgent issue in the country following the deaths of several school children over the past few years.
Global Citizen would like to ensure that these are safe, gender-separated toilets, and we call on the private sector to collaborate to fund this plan.