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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka must emulate New Zealand and Scotland in combating period poverty which remains a much neglected issue in the country, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said.

In a women’s day message, Premadasa tweeted on Wednesday March 08 that male chauvinism and male-dominated political processes have prevented Sri Lanka from taking progressive steps to address the problem.

Addressing period poverty was a central theme in Premadasa’s presidential election campaign in 2019, which was ridiculed and weaponised by his opponents in the rival Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). His advocacy for the cause earned him the nickname Padman, after India’s Arunachalam Muruganantham who championed a similar cause in Tamil Nadu. Premadasa reclaimed the monicker in the campaign trail.

His colleague in the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP Rohini Kaviratne said in September 2022 that 50 percent of Sri Lanka’s female student population is hesitant to go to school during their period, with the country’s currency crisis worsening the already debilitating effects of period poverty.

‘Period poverty’ refers to difficulties faced by low-income women and girls in accessing menstrual products. Citing a recent study, Kavirante said in the discussion, organised by Sri Lanka parliament’s communications unit, that many students are missing school due to their inability to acquire proper sanitary napkins.

The prices of sanitary napkins skyrocketed from March to September of 2022 with the country facing a severe currency crisis amid tax hikes on imported products. By September, the price of a 15-napkin pack ranged from 350 to 800 rupees in the market.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella in the same discussion justified the higher tax on sanitary pads at the time claiming that it incentivised local manufacturers. (Colombo/Mar08/2023)

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