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Sep 13, 2023

5PB: Don’t Tax My Femininity Realized

It was a process that began earlier this year and will now see the cost of sanitary pads and other feminine products reduced in stores nationwide. The Don’t Tax My Femininity Campaign was able to get the attention of policymakers who have since removed all taxes from these products. But it is only just taking full effect now. So why is this important? In tonight’s Five Point Breakdown, News Five’s Duane Moody looks at period poverty and the steps the country has taken to improve the quality of life for women and girls – and by extension the household – on this monthly expense.


Kalen Middleton

Kalen Middleton, Organizer, Pad Drive Belize

“It was one of the cheapest packs of pads in the aisle and immediately I was like wow, imagine that. It never crossed my mind that there are women out here in Belize who are unable to afford the pads that they need.”


Seidi Quetzal

Seidi Quetzal, Organizer, Don’t Tax My Femininity Campaign

“While being abroad, I was a student, I self-financed my Masters. So budgeting was very important. Each month I faced my menstruation and I just thought that I could have financed well with the price decrease in Taiwan. So when I came back home, unemployed, I was like wow, how is it so expensive here.”


What is Period Poverty?


Duane Moody, Reporting

It is something that for some is taken for granted – that because you can afford it, everybody else can. But the struggle of women and girls to afford sanitary pads or feminine products during their menstrual cycle is a global human rights issue. This increased vulnerability that they face due to financial burden posed by menstrual supplies is referred to as period poverty.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“In southern Africa I am told and perhaps in all of Africa, depending on your socioeconomic position, many women – now Africa is a huge continent so I don’t want to generalize – however, we are told that many women on the continent of Africa cannot afford sanitary pads, napkins, tampons and things like that.”


In Belize, there is a wide variety of these menstrual products available across supermarkets and community stores.  Based on the specific brand and quality of the product that is preferred or cheaper on the pocket, it can range anywhere from four to twenty-five dollars per pack. It’s a monthly cost, very much like a utility bill, and is a greater expense depending on the number of women or girls in the household who are in need of these products.


Don’t Tax My Femininity

Using her own experience, and realizing that so many low-income women and girls are facing similar situations, Seidi Quetzal launched a campaign. Don’t Tax My Femininity sought to bring relief to all households.


Seidi Quetzal

“I got the research done, I went to the Special Envoy who was very supportive; National Women’s Commission, Honourable Dolores Balderamos and Speaker of the House who they are women in leadership that could do the change and we ran with the baton. During the research I asked how much packs do you use so it could give me a sense of direction. Some of them would use three packs for the week, which is also encouraged by health officials to change your pad at least three hours. But some women were like miss if I don’t have the finance, I would just keep it for all day. So it also goes back to hygiene which is very important.”


All Taxes Removed from Sanitary Products for Women

The message did not fall on deaf ears and Prime Minister John Briceño announced that effective April first, not only the general sales tax of twelve point five percent, but all other taxes were to be removed from feminine products. This includes the three percent environmental tax, as well as the twenty percent import duty – totalling thirty-five point five percent in taxes being removed. Belize is now the fourth Caribbean country to remove taxes from sanitary products.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“While we think globally, we act locally. And the Government of Belize earlier this year saw it fit to remove all the taxes on feminine products, as we call it. Now a lot of people are responsible for having us made that move. We had young Seidi Quetzal, we had Miss Thea Garcia-Ramirez, we had the Special Envoy; we had a lot of help. And of course, I use an American football analogy: everybody worked on it, they bring up the ball and then I only had to grab the ball and do the touchdown.”


Feminine Products Tax Removal: Implementation and Enforcement

But while April first was the start date, the statutory instrument was only just ratified by the Senate less than a month ago, on August sixteenth. Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos-Garcia says that it is now about effectively implementing and enforcing this law.

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“It was something good that happened, however, we were not able to implement it immediately because since we are a member of CARICOM and you have the common external tariff arrangements, we actually had to get permission from our CARICOM partners because of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Now that the move has been passed not only in the House, but also in the Senate, we are at a stage now that we can actually implement. And we should see the cost go down. If you do not see the cost going down, I am appealing to everybody but especially we women who have to use the products, monitor it, be your own police. If it cost X amount three or four months ago and now we are getting into the phase of implementation, then let’s make sure that the cost has gone down because all taxes were removed.”


Seidi Quetzal

“Let’s put a benchmark of twelve dollars you spend. That’s one pack that only brings eight to ten. And then you have to buy three packs, so if you divide that, so that’s almost forty dollars. And when you remove the forty from the thirty-five point five percent, you at least save fifteen dollars.”


Period Poverty No Longer Taboo


This conversation, for many, is considered a sensitive issue as it involves a natural process of the female body. But it should not be limited to only women and girls. As men with mothers, wives and daughters, this is also important.


Seidi Quetzal

“In Belize, it is something never spoken about, but why? Up to today, we just relate it back to culture as to why it is not spoken about. But also maybe no one has opened the conversation. We had few instances in the school, but then you go back home and then you have a father who doesn’t want to talk about it and it is a hush-hush conversation because we don’t talk about it at the dining table.”


There are several organizations that have come out to assist those in need. Belize City resident Kalen Middleton successfully organized a pad drive and was able to assist the Jane Usher community. She quickly realized the extent of the issue on the ground.


Kalen Middleton

“We ended up getting about fifty packages and depending on the household they might get one or two package based on the amount of females in the household. A very, very huge need and it surprised me even more. Seeing two girls in a store versus multiple households in a neighbourhood that has a demand for menstrual products; it really shocked me. I just received a huge donation from Pallotti High School, about four or five garbage bags filled with individual pads, so I am tasked with actually packaging each of them.”


Quetzal, on the other hand, was able to partner with several organizations to provide sanitary pads to schools in the south.        


Seidi Quetzal

“For World Menstruation Day, we donated through all the schools down south pads from first form to third form. So that was huge and that was a collaboration with the Straughan Foundation and Special Envoy. So we really want to keep the girls in school as well. Sometimes they don’t have the resources, a simple pad to attend school and that would hinder them from learning on that day or maybe three days if they don’t have.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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