The use of unhygienic material in place of sanitary pads by the girl child has become a worrying factor for health experts as well as concerned organizations and individuals, especially in a country like Zimbabwe where life has become the survival of the fittest.
Despite the banning of the use of foreign currency and the legalizing of the ZimDollar by the country’s government sometime in June this year, Zimbabweans seem to be rebellious towards the idea and continue to exchange foreign currency in the black market. This has contributed to an increase in the prices of basic commodities.
Prices have been seen going up as three to four times their old prices, making the affordability of basic commodities impossible for low and middle-income earners.
Mainly the high pricing of essential goods like sanitary wear is stripping women and girls off their dignity. Menstruation is something that is natural and unavoidable to every normal woman. Because of the way it is perceived in our African culture, it should be every woman’s pride and joy, but it has become the pain of womanhood as some girls miss lessons when on their menstrual periods simply because they can not afford sanitary wear.
Research carried out by some organizations and individuals shows that some girls, especially those in the rural areas 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 about ZW$8, while expensive brands go as high as up to ZW$25. Those who can afford the luxury of tampons have to fork out $4 for the cheapest.
In a country with a stable economy sanitary wear should be given for free, but in a country like Zimbabwe, such expectations almost seem like daydreaming.
A survey done in 2014, according to the Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs, indicates that 20 per cent of girls miss school due to period pain while 62 per cent miss school due to lack of pads and 26 per cent stay home because of heavy flows during menstruation.
According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, one in 10 girls of school-going age in Africa misses school or drops out altogether during their menstrual cycle.
Individuals, girl child organizations and health experts are concerned that the continual use of these unhygienic materials in place of sanitary wear can contribute to the increase of vaginal infections like thrush and diseases such as cervical cancer.
For example, a teacher Miss Nancy Matowe, who leads a girl child campaign at a Victoria Falls school, narrated how she was touched by the condition of a pupil whose menstrual health was affected after she used tissue paper.
“In our interaction, we have come across situations whereby the girl child is forced to resort to unhygienic materials. Many of these girls say they do this because of financial hardships. I remember one girl was using tissue paper in place of pads and as a result of continued use, the tissue paper entered her privates.
“No-one noticed until she started experiencing heavy flows accompanied by greenish blood clots. Her situation was almost tragic and you can imagine the danger she would have gotten into if this had not been noticed,” said Miss Matowe.
What do you think can be done to help these underprivileged girls to acquire sanitaryware? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.