South African pharmacy chain Clicks denies offering free sanitary pads, but is running a promotion

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Social media posts shared thousands of times in South Africa claim that health and beauty retailer Clicks is giving away free sanitary pads. The claims are false; the pharmacy explained that while it is running a promotion on sanitary pads, they are not free.

A Facebook post published on November 15, 2020, and shared more than 2,000 times, shows a screenshot of a tweet that reads: “PADS ARE FREE NOW AT CLICKS”, referring to the large pharmacy and beauty retailer in South Africa.

Similar claims were made on Facebook here, here, and here, with more than 2,900 shares in total.

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post taken on November 19, 2020

The same claim was also shared on Twitter here and here.

However, the claim is false and appears to have been confused with a store promotion, as Clicks SA explained to individual users on Twitter: customers who purchase three packs of selected sanitary pads get the cheapest one for free.

Access to affordable sanitary products

The affordability of women's sanitary products is a concern around the world and especially in Africa where organisations are working to combat “period poverty” and promote gender equality.

However, some strides have been made in South Africa in recent years:  VAT taxes were lifted on sanitary pads in the 2020 financial year when the government also allocated R157 million ($10.2 million) towards the provision of sanitary pads for children from low-income households.  

South Africa has further budgeted another R652 million in medium-term spending over the next three years to support its national Sanitary Dignity Programme.

A screenshot of the medium-term estimates table taken from the 2020 budget review