The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe)

Touch­ing lives of Zim­bab­wean girls

- Grace Kaera­sora

IT IS in­con­ceiv­able how a seem­ingly sim­ple ob­ject such as a san­i­tary pad, taken for granted more often than not, can sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact the lives of so many young women.

In Zim­babwe, more than 62 per­cent of ru­ral girls do not have ac­cess to san­i­tary pads as proper san­i­ta­tion is ex­pen­sive and they end up adopt­ing un­hy­gienic al­ter­na­tives such as news­pa­pers, rags, leaves, bark and some­times cow dung.

How­ever, in a twist of fate, thou­sands of un­der­priv­i­leged girls from Harare, Mvurwi, Gweru, Mutare, Beit­bridge, Masvingo, Caledonia and Chi­hota; have re­ceived san­i­tary pads from 2015 to date un­der the #half-a-mil­lion-pads and Touch­ing Lives cam­paigns.

The cam­paigns which are spear­headed by Girls R Us and Touch­ing Lives have seen over 4 400 vul­ner­a­ble women and girls re­ceiv­ing pads each month with more than 31 334 pads dis­trib­uted to date.

Rabi­son Shumba, founder of Touch­ing Lives, said their tar­get is to reach at least 3 000 girls in the first half of 2017 and to make the ini­tia­tive sus­tain­able by not only giv­ing out pads but teaching com­mu­ni­ties how to make their own pad ver­sions; in the long-term em­pow­er­ing women to be able to take care of their own needs.

“It has be­come com­mon knowl­edge that one of the key is­sues fac­ing the girl child to­day is ac­cess to san­i­tary wear.

“The tar­get ben­e­fi­cia­ries are vul­ner­a­ble women with a spe­cial fo­cus on young girls who have re­sorted to un­healthy op­tions which when you hear of, you cringe,” he said.

Girls R Us’ founder and di­rec­tor, San­dra Moyo, said this year they will mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate the progress they have made within their ar­eas of fo­cus which in­cludes Mhon­doro, Chi­hota, Bu­l­awayo, Harare, Chegutu, Mure­hwa, Mvurwi and Madziva.

They hope to reach over 20 000 girls by end of 2018.

“Our tar­gets for 2017 is to con­tinue in our ar­eas of fo­cus so as to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate the progress and im­pact we are mak­ing. We, how­ever, with the #half-a-mil­lion-pads cam­paign, seek to reach over 20 000 girls with san­i­tary wear, soap and ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial in the next two years,” she said.

Usu­ally, women re­quire san­i­tary pads each month and the as­sump­tion is that when an or­gan­i­sa­tion donates pads, it is a once-off thing, but for Touch­ing Lives, the aim is to con­stantly pro­vide.

“These cam­paigns are meant to be life­long as there will al­ways be a need out there. Ev­ery woman faces this monthly un­less they have reached menopause or fall preg­nant. This, there­fore, can­not be a once-off cam­paign,” Mr Shumba said.

The re­spon­si­bil­ity to raise the girl child lies in ev­ery­body’s hands and Ms Moyo be­lieves women’s is­sues should not be looked at in iso­la­tion.

“About 62 per­cent of ru­ral girls do not have ac­cess to san­i­tary pads and use un­hy­gienic meth­ods, hence ev­ery­one is re­spon­si­ble for rais­ing the girl child and the is­sues she faces can­not be looked at in iso­la­tion,” said Moyo.

Founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ZiMwana World­wide group, Mrs Rumbidzai Kamba, said the re­sponses they have been get­ting from women and girls who have ben­e­fit­ted from these var­i­ous pad cam­paigns has been pos­i­tive with var­i­ous in­fec­tions on the de­cline from the use of un­hy­gienic ma­te­rial.

“The ma­te­ri­als that most of these girls were us­ing were in­fect­ing them be­cause of where they were placed, that area is very sen­si­tive.

“Now in­fec­tions are less be­cause of the pads be­ing pro­vided to them,” she said.

Mrs Kamba added that in Caledonia, where girls re­ceived pads for three months, recorded bet­ter re­la­tion­ships with their fam­i­lies be­cause there was no need to wash and dry their ma­te­ri­als within their homes. Self-es­teem lev­els has also im­proved.

“Re­la­tion­ships have im­proved in the homes and many are now ac­tu­ally com­ing through and ask­ing for more whilst oth­ers ask when next we are go­ing to visit,” she said.

The is­sue, ac­cord­ing to Mrs Kamba, is more med­i­cal as the use of un­hy­gienic ma­te­rial comes with in­fec­tions and pelvic ab­dom­i­nal pains.

When it comes to male-headed homes, san­i­tary wear is hardly pri­ori­tised with the fo­cus of fam­ily bud­gets be­ing on food and other items con­sid­ered im­por­tant.

Pe­ri­ods are often wrongly re­ferred to as a “women’s is­sue”, and dis­cussed ex­clu­sively amongst women, thereby mak­ing it im­mensely dif­fi­cult to have any kind of na­tional con­ver­sa­tion around the is­sue that af­fects a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion.

“We can­not con­tinue to pre­tend that all is well with the women and as long as you have a sis­ter, daugh­ter, mother and cousin; they face this chal­lenge and it would be un­wise to leave them to strug­gle when we live with them,” said Mr Shumba.

A lot of un­der­priv­i­leged girls miss school monthly when they have their pe­ri­ods and if a girl is ab­sent for three days of school a month, it equates to a con­sid­er­able amount of time away from school per year.

Ac­cord­ing to Unicef, one in 10 school-go­ing girls in Africa misses school or drops out al­to­gether be­cause of her monthly pe­riod.

 ??  ?? ZiMwana of­fi­cials (in t-shirts and caps) pose for a photo af­ter do­nat­ing pads to high school stu­dents
ZiMwana of­fi­cials (in t-shirts and caps) pose for a photo af­ter do­nat­ing pads to high school stu­dents

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe