Here at the YNaija Counter Culture blog, we have followed with keen interest the work that activist Karo Omu has done to highlight the steep tax that women and girls have to pay to have access to sanitary care. Sanitary products like tampons, diva cups and pads are expensive and often are considered luxury products internationally and slapped on with a ‘luxury’ tax that can increase its costs by as much as 10%. In a country where 10 million school age children are out of school as a direct result of poverty, and many girls lose as much as 10 – 15 days of schooling a year because of sanitary care, subsidizing sanitary products, making concessions for school age girls to deal with their personal hygiene during periods and providing free education about hygiene during menstrual periods are invaluable.
Through her non-profit Sanitary Aid For Nigerian Girls, Omu has crowdsourced to buy sanitary products, organized teams to educate girls on sanitary care and petitioned the government and private individuals to partner towards solving the problem. She has even faced erasure at several points during her campaign, with influencers trying to muscle in on her idea rather than collaborating with her to increase the reach of S.A.N.G. But it has all been worth it, because this week, the Nigerian government announced as part of its 2019 International Day of the Girl Child that it was going to implement a program to subsidize pads and deliver them free of charge to girls in lower income schools through the Ministry of Women Affairs.
It has taken nearly 3 years of consistent pushing and advocacy to reach this point and the work that Karo Omu has done highlights the power of an individual to change perceptions, create real change with a ripple effect and motivate the government, even an ineffective one, to implement truly life-changing policies. We will have to wait and see how the government actually implements this new directive, and stay ready to pressure the government to stay on the straight and narrow, but this is worth celebrating.