Lupane- MDC-T’s Senator Khaliphani Phugeni says the government must provide free sanitary wear to women and girls.
He was speaking at a ceremony to hand over more than five thousand sanitary pads to rural girls and women in Lupane. The sanitary pads were sourced by the MDC-T’s Matebeleland North youth Chairperson Mfundo Gabheni Sibanda.
“Sanitary wear should be made readily available free of charge just like condoms; government should pay for sanitary wear. Government should take the dignity of women and girls seriously,” said Phugeni.
“We appeal for free sanitary wear in our schools. The girl child is vulnerable to diseases due to use of unhygienic materials. A lot of young girls drop out of school because they are made to suffer the indignity of being teased by their peers when they go through their menstrual cycle. These sanitary pads should be accessible to every girl child in schools, church and hospitals the same way birth control pills are to women,” he added.
Speaking at the same occasion the MDC-T Matebeleland North youth leader, Mfundo Sibanda said he “got scared” when he learnt that girls use cow dung in place of sanitary pads because they cannot afford the correct material.
“I was in a shop looking for gifts for someone when I saw a photo album made of elephant dung. It looked like paper and as I went through it, a shop attendant narrated to me how rural girls use the same material to make sanitary pads because they can’t afford pads. It shocked me to learn that girls get to the extent of making sanitary pads using dung-that’s scary,” he said adding that the practice is common among girls in rural areas and urban poor girls.
“We have managed to raise resources to enable us get sanitary wear for poor women and girls, especially in rural areas. Sanitary wear is a big challenge to them because most families here live on less than $1 United States Dollar a day,” said Sibanda.
Research carried out by some organisations and individuals shows that some women and girls resort to using unhygienic alternatives such as newspapers, rags, leaves, tissue paper and cow dung, among others because they cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons.
The cheapest pack of sanitary pads costs more than ZWL$100 while expensive brands go for up to ZWL$500. Those who can afford the luxury of tampons have to fork out ZWL$400 for the cheapest.
Some girls are even afraid to ask for money from their parents hence they suffer the pain. Statistics show that 72 percent of rural girls use soft bark tissue during menstruation because they cannot afford appropriate sanitary wear and do not attend school as a result.
A survey done in 2014, according to the Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs, indicates that 20 percent of girls miss school due to period pain while 62 percent miss school due to lack of pads and 26 percent stay home because of heavy flows during menstruation.
The event was also attended by MDC-T Matebeleland North provincial treasurer Nah Khumalo, activist Ntando Ndlovu and a number of traditional leaders.