• Madeleine Cretney

Are sanitary products a luxury for girls?

I began working on the Jali Project back in June, joining TAI in attempting to break the barriers that prevent girls from receiving the complete education that they deserve, including cultural barriers, a lack of access to education on feminine hygiene and the inability to afford or access sanitary products. I was shocked to find that for many girls, education and sanitary items are luxuries. Inability to manage menstruation causes many girls to miss up to a week of school every month, massively hindering their academic achievement. Where I come from in the UK, there has recently been great dispute and outrage over the 5% VAT charged on sanitary products. The dispute over whether or not they should be classed as 'luxuries' got me thinking - this tax makes little difference to their affordability for most British people and they are accessible more or less everywhere. How could I imagine being without these essentials? The issue of the 'tampon tax' suddenly seemed trivial, and it was this thought that steered me towards the Jali Project.

In early August I was lucky enough to able to join a brilliant group of activists climbing Kilimanjaro for TAI's 'Climb4Girls' initiative. One of TAI's focuses is on empowering girls, and the aim of this climb was to raise awareness for the challenges that they face, most importantly those that prevent them from attending and succeeding in school. I climbed the Marangu route just a day after visiting a small school in Moshi, where I saw first hand how many girls are deprived of simple things such as sanitary pads and how it affects their school attendance. We were able to use money raised by Jali volunteers such as myself, to distribute sanitary pads to the pupils. Meeting them encouraged me to complete the personal challenge that was climbing Kilimanjaro, whilst bringing awareness to this challenge that they face every month. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to be part of the Climb4Girls initiative, and I hope that it continues to attract attention to girls' issues in Tanzania.

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