Too poor for periods, Zimbabwe’s girls rely on rags, paper, leaves

HARARE- According to media reports many Zimbabwean girls struggle to afford sanitary pads, this means some girls miss school because of this.

Seventeen year old Maria Chaodza is one such young girl, she dismantles a home-made pillowcase and picks out pieces of its worn stuffing, it is an old, cloth rug – which she uses in place of the sanitary pad she cannot afford.

Chaodza said she misses schools sometimes because her family or boyfriend can not afford sanitary pads, and said she is too ashamed to go to school with this, especially in heavy bleeding days. She lives in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West Province in Makonde rural district and the country is suffering a sanitary wear crisis.

Earlier this year young women and girls marched in Harare, the campaign “Happy Flow Campaign” to demand more affordable sanitary wear.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa distributed free sanitary pads to poor women and girls, and hopes are now rising that this year’s elections might yet ease the crisis, Chaodza said,  “If we vote for the right person to lead our country, I’m sure things will get better for us, as poor woman, facing difficulties (getting) sanitary wear.”

Until a time the issue is solved, handouts and ersatz pads are accepted.

“Some young girls resort to using weeds and leaves in place of sanitary pads, compromising their health,” Obert Masaraure, president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We appeal for free sanitary wear in our schools.”

Along with the rural teachers, civil society groups such as the Youth Dialogue Action Network have stepped in to help.

“We have managed to raise resources to enable us get sanitary wear for the 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 a day,” its director Catherine Mkwapati told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

It costs the equivalent of $5 to buy one standard packet of pads in Zimbabwe, way too expensive to many Zimbabwean families.

In 2015, it costed just $1 before the nation’s economic crisis worsened.

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