Women MPs reluctant to discuss feminine hygiene

06 Oct 2016 15:30pm
WINDHOEK, 06 OCT (NAMPA) - Women Members of Parliament (MPs) in the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday shied away from debating the provision of feminine hygiene products to needy school girls.
The motion was tabled by DTA of Namibia President McHenry Venaani, who said bringing such a motion to the NA is important to remind those who consider the issue a taboo that all matters that require developmental intervention are “the issues of MPs”.
Surprisingly, female MPs were not keen on discussing the matter after Venaani concluded his motivation.
“I am embarrassed to discuss menstruation in Parliament,” said Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Loide Kasingo, who was the first woman to contribute to the debate.
Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Lucia Witbooi, also tried to silence the debate by saying the ministry has programmes in place whereby free sanitary pads are provided to “some” schools. She could, however, not point out which schools are benefiting from the programme, only saying that it “just needs to be strengthened”.
In his motion, Venaani said attention has previously been drawn to links between poor school-based sanitation and girls' low school attendance rates. At the same time, the everyday ‘experiences’ of girls with poor access to sanitary products are poorly understood.
Lack of access to feminine hygiene products is one of the factors hampering school attendance for girls across the world, and discussions to declare sanitary pads and tampons necessities or essential items have also been raised in other parliaments.
“Women pay taxes on pads, which makes it more expensive. I think it is time for legislature to consider removing any tax such as valued added tax (VAT) on this commodity.
“We provide condoms to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and yet sanitary pads are expensive. We live in a modern world and our girl child should be given all support to prosper and no biological hindrance should hamper her promise,” Venaani stated.
The male MPs championed the debate and supported Venaani’s motion, with some of them noting that they too have daughters and understand the challenges girls encounter. They are also aware of the cost of feminine hygiene products.
The female MPs were however less accommodating. Witbooi said she does not think there is a need for a debate in this regard, because it has been identified already that there is need for the provision of free sanitary pads to needy girls.
DTA MP Elma Dienda then asked her to mention the names of two schools benefiting from the programme, but she could not and instead advised Dienda to approach the ministry's regional office for a list of school names.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also stated that she did not see the need for such a debate to be held in the NA if such a programme is in place.
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Peya Mushelenga however insisted that the matter be discussed.
“We are wasting time postponing important issues like this and then we want to rush these issues for debate at the last hour when we are about to go recess,” he said.
The debate was adjourned until next Tuesday.