Period poverty is a pervasive issue in Ghana; many women and girls lack access to sanitary products and proper facilities to manage their periods.
About 95% of girls sometimes miss school due to period poverty. According to a 2018 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in ten girls in Africa misses school during menstruation, and some eventually drop out of school due to period poverty. Lack of menstrual products also affects women’s health and increases the risk of infections, particularly in rural areas.
The causes of period poverty in Ghana are diverse and range from affordability, lack of education on periods, a dearth of access to menstrual materials and a number of taxes hovering around period products. Additionally, the taboo surrounding menstruation and local beliefs that menstruating women are unclean contribute to period poverty in Ghana.
Despite Ghana being a lower-middle-income country, the gap between the poorest 10% and the richest 10% of the population has been on the rise and has increased since 2006. However, Ghana’s rapid growth has accelerated poverty reduction, cutting the poverty rate from 52.6% to 21.4% between 1991 and 2012. Extreme poverty declined even more, dropping from 37.6% in 1991 to 9.6% in 2013.
To combat period poverty in Ghana, grassroots and international organizations have stepped in to help solve these issues. Education on menstruation, healthy menstrual hygiene management, supply distribution, and the elimination of the import tax on menstruation materials provide a feasible way to end period poverty in Ghana.
Despite evidence that imported sanitary pads are expensive as a result of the luxury tax imposed on them, there are many oppositions to the call for the removal of the tax. In 2018, J Initiative, a child-centred research and advocacy-based non-governmental organization called on the government of Ghana to review the directive to classify sanitary towels as luxury products by the GRA.
due to the increasing cost of sanitary towels, some girls; especially those in rural areas and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds resort to using absorbents such as dirty rags, cotton wool, leaves and paper. Aside from the fact that the neatness of these absorbents cannot be guaranteed and could cause diseases and infections to girls, most often they leak and soil their uniforms. The embarrassment girls face as a result of soiling their uniforms during their periods causes them to miss school.
However, in recent times, the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) has cautioned the government against the tax removal on sanitary products, citing it as detrimental to the economy. This move by AGI will set back the fight against period poverty by a mile.
While advocacy against period poverty continues unabated, there is a young budding start-up located in the Northern part of Ghana that is innovatively leveraging technology to rid the country of period poverty.
Kodu Tech is a young start-up in Ghana that produces biodegradable, eco-friendly and affordable sanitary products.
In a captivating account, a profound belief had taken root within the hearts of a group of individuals—an unwavering conviction that access to hygiene products should be recognized as an inherent human right. Their resolute commitment to effecting meaningful change in the lives of women and girls residing in underserved communities emerged as the focal point of their narrative.
To achieve their noble goal, a strategic alliance was forged with local organizations and community leaders. This collaborative endeavour allowed them to delve deep into the intricate nuances of each unique community, gaining a comprehensive understanding of their specific needs and the myriad challenges they faced.
With unwavering determination, they set out to establish partnerships with local suppliers and manufacturers, aiming to produce top-quality, sustainable products that could effectively meet the identified needs. These endeavours were not limited to the mere provision of affordable and eco-friendly sanitary pads; they extended far beyond, encompassing the vital aspects of education and awareness.
Recognizing the significance of proper usage and the promotion of menstrual hygiene, the group has placed great emphasis on imparting knowledge and raising awareness among the communities they serve. They believe that by sharing this invaluable information, they could empower women and girls to utilize these miraculous pads correctly, while simultaneously instilling an understanding of the pivotal role menstrual hygiene plays in their lives.
KODU’s captivating story stems from the existence of a strong commitment to finding new and clever ways to tackle the environmental effects of menstrual products. One exciting approach being explored is the use of natural and renewable materials like bananas and plantain fibres to create sanitary pads that are eco-friendly – an approach that complements their overall mission to address the issue of period poverty in rural communities in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. By working together and taking a holistic approach, their goal is to bring about long-lasting positive change.
The tales of KODU Tech highlight the unwavering dedication of those involved, as they journey into uncharted territory to find solutions that balance the needs of people with the preservation of our environment. It’s a story that envisions a world where menstrual products no longer harm the Earth, but instead embrace nature’s harmony and offer sustainable options for everyone.
Good works are always recognized. In May this year, KODU Tech was adjudged winner of the 2023 Circular Economy Competition. As part of the winning package, the company received seed funding of GHC100,000 from the European Union to scale up its operations.
In addition, the KIC/ MasterCard Foundation Agritech business challenge crowned KODU Tech as the 2022/23 winner, receiving $50,000 as cash price among many other supports.
As their remarkable story unfolds, the transformative ripple effect has become evident within these communities. Each passing day becomes a testament to their unwavering dedication as they tirelessly rewrite the narrative of possibility. The empowering tapestry they have woven, serves as a beacon of hope and transformation, envisioning a future where no woman or girl would ever be deprived of their basic human right to access the tools that safeguarded their dignity and well-being.