BY LORRAINE NDEBELE
We Act For Her organisation (WAFH) is in the process of sourcing funds from individuals and companies to support women and girls that are struggling to access sanitary wear due to their prohibitive costs.
Most under-priviledged women and girls in the country are struggling to finance menstrual periods and end up using unhygienic methods that might affect their reproductive systems.
WAFH hosted a fundraising dinner last Friday where car stickers were sold, as well as raffle tickets to raise funds.
WAFH founder and chief executive officer Tsitsi Chitsike said period poverty affected most under-priviledged women, and was a hidden crisis in the country.
“It is robbing the girl child of an equal opportunity to education. 72 % of menstruating girls in Zimbabwe do not use sanitary pads because they cannot afford them; whereas 67% of school girls miss school due to lack of adequate menstrual products,” Chitsike said.
According to the Ministry of Women Affairs, 67% of girls miss school during menstrual periods due to lack of access to sanitary wear and clean sanitation facilities. Girls with disabilities usually drop out of school.
“Every single month, girls have to miss school for a week and during that week, girls are using old socks, plastic bags, used masks, and cow dung as makeshift sanitary pads,” she said.
Health experts say that if women and girls are subjected to poor menstrual hygiene, they might end up suffering from yeast infections, urogenital infections and early signs of cervical cancer, especially if the products they are using during their periods are unhygienic.
“The adverts that we see on television show happy women, with non-stained underwear and comfortable pads; but the reality is that many women cannot afford those products,” Chitsike said. “Period poverty is not only affecting girls, it is affecting the working class as well as our mothers. Our communities presently lack running water, they lack refuse collection, meaning women have to go through a difficult week each month trying to figure out how best to wash, and dispose of sanitary pads.
“WAFH not only seeks to end period poverty; but it also seeks to contribute towards a healthy nation, creating jobs, community development, reducing the carbon footprint, and ensuring we reduce sanitary wear imports contributing positively to the economy of the country,” she said.
Sanitary wear products are overpriced in the country. Poor families end up having to choose between purchasing food or feminine products.
As a result, period poverty in Zimbabwe has risen to unimaginable heights and has incited the government and many non-profit organizations to work together to mitigate this problem.