The Zimbabwean shame

A shocking report by the Integrated Sustainable Livelihoods (ISL) has revealed that due to lack of resources, some young girls in Zimbabwe are using pieces of cloth, newspapers, cow dung and tissues as sanitary ware during their monthly menstruation. (Pictured: Re-usable sanitary pads – a cheap alternative for the marginalised girls)
The report was released by Lifa Methie, Director of the ISL in Zimbabwe. ISL is collaborating with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development in an effort to improve the reproductive health of marginalised women through provision of re-usable sanitary pads which are safe alternatives to what the girls are currently using.
Risitseng Rukasha, Projects Officer for the sanitary pads project, said buying pads was considered a less priority by the vulnerable and poor populations who were more concerned about putting food on the table. “During this period, they not only experience the characteristic abdominal pain and mood alterations, but also have to be absent from school for fear of odours emanating from newspapers and rags they use to contain their menstrual flow,” says Rukasha.
An average pack of sanitary pads costs US$2 and this implies that a family with four girls needs US$8, which is normally beyond the reach of poor households. Rukasha added that even female students were finding it a challenge to afford sanitary ware. According to ISL, the average woman will use 16 800 pads or tampons in her lifetime. The organisation has also dispelled the myth that menstruation is a sickness but a natural physical process. It said that women’s blood was not diseased and dirty but it was just a harmless by-product of a biological event.
ISL trains women on how to make re-usable sanitary pads for their own use and as an income generating project.
Rukasha revealed that her organisation had distributed 1 000 pads to rural girls in Bindura Secondary Schools including another 1 000 to disadvantaged women in Nyabira and Mhondoro. The organisation targets disadvantaged women and schools.
She added that ISL had also undertaken a validation exercise where they invited the Ministry of Women Affairs,Gender and Community Development,UNFPA and other NGOs to pre-test the re-usable pads and give suggestions before taking it to the rural areas. According to Naome Chimbetete, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN), due to lack of gender budgeting in the fiscus, young girls were affected since resources were not properly challenged to address issues which affect them.
She said that the issue concerning sanitary pads for young girls should be taken in the context of a sexual and reproductive health rights one. She said that such issues should be addressed through gender sensitive budgeting in the fiscus. There is a call from women to scrap taxation on sanitary products to make them more affordable to the under-priviledged young women.
Minister of Finance Tendai Biti is reported to have remarked that taxing sanitary ware was necessary due to low cotton prices. Due to low capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector, many companies have not been finding it easy to venture into manufacturing following Zimbabwe’s economic decline.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Zimbabwean shame

  1. hey Ephraim. Thanks for writing about a topic like this! I think it is important that men understand female challenges (and visa versa). Did you write this text?? your english is improving big time. Don’t forget to mention sources from information (preferably with links and dates that you gathered the info)

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