Collaborative Governance Readiness Analysis: Reducing the Tax Burden of Menstrual Hygiene Products in Kenya

Issue: Access to menstrual hygiene products is an essential component of health, hygiene, and the social outcomes for people that menstruate and is particularly important regarding the pursuit for gender equality; in lower income countries access to these products is largely determined by income.

Background: In recent years, the popularity of removing “tampon taxes” has soared. Several countries in Europe have removed value-added tax and sales tax on these goods and have implemented programs for distribution to consumers without cost to promote access (World Health Organization – Europe). Given the success of these programs it has been echoed throughout the development sector that this equitable approach to health products should be prioritized in developing countries. However, it is important to note that menstrual hygiene products are significantly less affordable in low-income countries as compared to high-income countries.  

Kenya has the furthest reaching menstrual hygiene product tax cuts in the world, with policies supporting this dating back to 2004. Unfortunately, the removal of the value-add tax for locally produced products has not significantly reduced the consumer prices of the products, with 65% of people seeking these products unable to afford them (Geertz, Iyer and Kasen). This model neglects the reality that consumer pricing is largely dictated by the private sector and market competition. It is also significant to note that foreign companies producing menstrual hygiene products do not receive the same tax cuts and could be incentivized to diversify the market.

Readiness for Collaborative Governance Regime: The Collaborative Governance process would be an appropriate model for developing systems for menstrual hygiene product accessibility in Kenya. The energy surrounding the movement for affordable products has created an enabling environment in which stakeholders are motivated to find creative solutions to bridge the gap between the existing model and a model in which all people that menstruate have access  to products that enable them to fully participate in society, including schools and the labor market.Primary parties are identifiable and willing to participate: Thus far, major stakeholders within the menstrual hygiene management sector include The Kenyan Ministry of Education, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, and Chandaria Industries Ltd (the largest sanitary product manufacturer in Kenya). All have been considered stakeholders within the current tax modeling discussion and have demonstrated willingness to engage and support access to sanitary products.

Potential areas for agreement, multiple trade-offs: With a variety of products available, a need for multi-tiered education, and several potential cost structures- there is a great degree of overlap that allows for trade-offs and agreement between all stakeholders.

Parties anticipate future dealings together: All invested parties will have ongoing relationships and dependencies on one another.

External pressures to reach agreement: With investors shifting values towards gender equality, as outlined by the United Nation’s sustainable development goal number five (United Nations) low-income countries are rapidly moving to adopt measures to support these goals. Additionally, people that menstruate are being supported across various platforms with notable influencers (political and social) elevating their narrative of the goal of equitable access.

Adequate resources and funding: Based on existing models, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education is outfitted to support subsidy programs, innovation within the field of menstrual hygiene products (including reusable menstruation cups) is a promising component of additional resources, and external engagement by funders (such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) there are resources and funding that can be available to support this work.

Goals: To support Kenyans that menstruate access affordable products that enable them to live healthy, productive lives, unhampered by menstruation.  This will be done by developing education campaigns, determining product availability and variety, and determining programs and cost structures that will reduce the consumer price of these products.

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