Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
GIRLS and women countrywide have roundly praised the nationwide reusable sanitary pads initiative launched by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa this week, saying it restores their dignity, promotes good menstrual health management and creates jobs.
Through a pilot project which the First Lady ran in five provinces of the country through her Angel of Hope Foundation in partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, at least 8 000 pads were sewn, with potential to produce more as the project is ongoing.
Amai Mnangagwa has since distributed the reusable pads for free to eight provinces which got 1 000 each, with plans already in the pipeline to bring the initiative to Bulawayo and Harare for the benefit of vulnerable girls.
The First Lady is the country’s health ambassador and made efforts to ensure the needs of women and vulnerable communities countrywide are catered for.
She is also passionate about women empowerment and she sought tailors across the provinces, by so doing she created employment for the women involved in the project.
The First Lady provided machines and all the needed material.
The reusable pads sewing initiative could not have come at any better time as women and girls were grappling with high costs of pads.
Some girls had resorted to managing their menstrual flow with newspapers, old rags, grass, leaves and in worst case scenarios, dry cow dung, because they cannot afford proper sanitary products.
Using these unhygienic alternatives exposed them to skin rashes, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, cervical cancer, fungal and yeast infections.
According to health experts, this undermined the social status of women and girls, resulting in low self-esteem and psychological well-being, restricted mobility and inability to participate in everyday activities for women and girls.
Given the multiple challenges women and adolescent girls faced, it was evident that promoting menstrual hygiene management was not only a sanitation matter, but an important step towards safeguarding the dignity, bodily integrity and overall life opportunities for women and girls.
This prompted the mother of the nation to kick-start the project so as to end the plight of the girl child.
Mrs Respina Mabhureni, a beneficiary of the project from Masvingo province’s Wasara Wasara Sewing Club, said they could now provide for their families, thanks to the First Lady’s initiative.
“Amai tine mufaro wakanyaya, we can now afford to put food on the table because of you. You created employment for us and the project on the other hand is benefiting the community, especially our vulnerable girls,” she said, before bursting into the song “Mai vedu inumber 1 kana tasvika pane zvakaoma”.
Another beneficiary, Mrs Sunungurai Magaya from Buhera, Manicaland province, said she was grateful for the gesture which will ensure her children attend school regularly.
“Poor financial resources made it difficult for our daughters to attend school during their monthly periods because we could not afford pads, but thanks to Amai Mnangagwa this is now a thing of the past,” she said. “May God richly bless her for caring for the poor.”
Mrs Mlanga, from Matabeleland North province, who is also involved in sewing the reusable pads, praised the mother of the nation for her kindness.
“I want to thank you for your kindness and love Amai,” she said. “You are economically empowering women. “May you continue to touch lives, you are indeed a blessing to the whole nation.”
Mutsa Chivavaya, a Upper Six student from Svosve district, Mashonaland East province, was excited at the launch of the reusable sanitary wear project, saying missing school for young girls would be a thing of the past.
She gave a heart-rending account of how most girls in her community would rely on tree barks and cow dung during their monthly cycles.
“Amai has restored our dignity,” she said. “At times I thought being a woman was a curse because I did not have money to buy sanitary wear. Some girls would use cow dung and tree bark strings (rwodzi) which were both smelly and uncomfortable. We would also miss school during this period for fear of being laughed at by others, but it is no longer the case. I feel empowered and dignity has been restored.”
Linnet Mukadiona shared similar sentiments saying: “Before the roll out of reusable sanitary pads, I suffered low self-esteem.
This is something worth commending, what the Mother of the Nation has done for me and other vulnerable girls.
“We can now kiss goodbye to the rashes and pimples we developed because of the alternatives we used. We now feel safe and secure.”
Given the high costs of commercial sanitary pads pegged at one US dollar or more, reusable pads are therefore a viable option that will keep more girls in schools.
The message by the First Lady is that menstrual hygiene is not a luxury, but a necessity, and a fundamental right for every girl child.