Gender and Community Editor
Female learners in rural schools will start receiving free sanitary wear next year under a Government programme that is meant to assist children from disadvantaged families who are losing out on valuable learning time after failing to attend classes during their menstrual cycles.
Government has set aside $500 million for the programme, which will be rolled out progressively next year, starting with rural schools before being expanded to cover urban learning institutions.
Studies have shown that the high cost of sanitary wear was forcing girls from vulnerable backgrounds into using unhygienic materials or taking contraceptives to stop mensuration.
Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said the programme will commence once Treasury releases funds for procurement and distribution of the sanitary wear.
“We intend to roll out the programme for the whole year based on the budget and we expect to alleviate the challenge of sanitary wear within the education sector,” he said.
“Our strategy of distribution is based on the equity principle, where we start with rural primary and secondary schools, then we move to the urban high-density schools and lastly the urban low-density schools.”
A similar initiative funded to the tune of $200 million failed to take off this year after resources were redirected to combating the pandemic.
Ms Ashley Muremba, director of Women’s Voice Zimbabwe, an organisation which advocates for girls’ and women’s rights, welcomed the development.
“There are girls in marginalised areas and rural communities who cannot afford sanitary pads and others are using rudimentary materials as alternatives, and this is harmful to their health,” said Ms Muremba.
“The end result will be a thrash infection and cancer. I think this will bring positive change and will witness girls attending school just like their male counterparts while also protecting their health.”
In the 2021 Budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Government will collaborate with development partners to expand the programme.
“As such, Government will continue to collaborate with development partners, the private sector and civil society in providing sanitary wear to female learners from vulnerable households,” he said.
“The 2021 Budget, therefore, allocates $500 million for provision of sanitary wear.”
In 2018, Government removed duty on sanitary wear following years of intense lobbying by gender activists and legislators.
This, however, failed to provide relief as the prices of sanitary wear continued skyrocketing. Zimbabwe will become only the second African country to provide free sanitary wear to girls after Kenya if the programme is successfully rolled out.