The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has appealed to the Government of Ghana to significantly reduce or untax sanitary pads to enable vulnerable adolescents to afford them.
The reduction in taxes will also enable local manufacturers to produce more at a standardised price for the ordinary Ghanaian female.
Ms Abigail Edem Hunu, Programme Assistant for Gender, UNFPA, who made the appeal at a workshop organised by UNFPA for adolescents across the country in Accra, said the increasing prices of sanitary pads following high taxes on them made fighting adolescent pregnancy a complex task.
The two-day workshop was dubbed: “Adolescents’ Learning Forum, Legislators and Delegates Conference” and participants were also to meet up Members of Parliament on the second day for mentoring and intergenerational discussions on issues affecting them nationwide.
This, she explained, was because some adolescent girls gave in to men’s sexual demands because they could not afford sanitary pads, a situation which hindered their school attendance and public places.
“We have interacted with adolescents and we are having issues of sex for sanitary pads and so what is not supposed to happen ends up happening. Adolescents are being taken advantage of. They are being raped and are getting pregnant.
“Now, I’m just thinking of the implications of that for the most vulnerable people in society. A sanitary pad which was GHS10 some few months ago now ranges between GHS18 and GHS22 for one piece and you know, a lady can use as many as three pads in a month. So how many of these adolescents can fund sanitary pads with or without the support of their guardians,” she said.
Ms Hunu bemoaned the irresponsible conduct of some parents where they sent their teenage daughters to live with men either in marriage or as co-habitant sexual partners because they had been impregnated by those men.
“So that dynamic is basically you getting pregnant and then your caregiver or parent sacks you to go and live with the person that is responsible for impregnating you. So that is what we are terming as cohabitation.
“At least that daughter should be 18 years and above. So our mandate as UNFPA is to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every child is safe, and that every young person grows up to reach his or her full potential,” she said.
Ms Hunu said boys were also engaged at the workshop because they and men were usually the perpetrators of defilement, rape and other forms of abuse against women and girls.
“It is very critical for us to begin to deliberately deepen our engagement with the men and boys to ensure that they become allies in our quest as a nation and global platform to achieve the SDGs comes 2030.
“We know that we come from a very patriarchal society, where the man is seen as the head of the family and women and girls don’t really have voices. In some communities and homes, it is the men who decide what food a woman should buy as well as what she wears,” she noted.
Dr Doris Aglobitse, the National Programme Analyst in charge of Communication, Partnership and Resource Mobilisation, UNFPA, said her Agency had prioritised promoting adolescent girls with skills and empowerment projects as one way to end child marriage.
“If we want to end issues of child marriage and teenage pregnancy, it is very critical that we engage the vulnerable adolescent with skills and knowledge. We need to get to a stage where every adolescent girl would get to an age where she decides to marry, when to marry and how to go about that marriage,” she said.
As part of the initiatives to discourage child marriage, Dr Aglobitse noted that UNFPA together with UNICEF had organised the “Adolescent Learning Forum” across the country to empower adolescents with skills and positive knowledge from one another.
“We need to ensure that collectively as a country, we work hard to ensure that adolescent girls are free and not forced into marriage,” she said.
Authorities from the World Food Programme, UNICEF, Denmark Embassy and Department of Children took turns to sensitise the adolescents about their rights at the workshop.