MPs from across the political divide on Tuesday implored Finance minister Tendai Biti to consider enforcing measures that would see sanitaryware being provided for free at public places like what happens with contraceptives.
Bulawayo Central MP Dorcas Sibanda (MDC-T) said the minister should ensure costs of sanitaryware were also reduced as a lot of poor women could not afford them and were using unhealthy methods during menstruation.
Goromonzi North MP Paddy Zhanda (Zanu PF) said some women in rural areas were compromised during their menstrual cycles to the extent of using cow dung.
“The costs of sanitaryware should be reviewed downwards because a lot of our women in rural areas cannot afford it and that is exposing them to diseases such as cervical cancer,” said Zhanda.
“They end up resorting to dangerous materials like cow dung, tissue paper and newspapers. We want sanitaryware to be made available at all public places,” he said.
Sibanda said she was surprised that upon entry to most public toilets, one would find both male and female condoms provided for free, yet issues of women’s maternal health were ignored.
Condoms cost only one rand pack of three and are available for free at different places, while sanitaryware costs $1, 20 a packet of 10 pads and a 250-gramme pack of cotton wool costs as much as $1, 50.
“Every woman in the world goes through menstruation for five days in a month, making it 60 days of menstruation every year. It means girls from rural areas are unable to attend school because they cannot afford sanitaryware and they do not want to be embarrassed at school,” she said.
Sibanda added: “As Zimbabwean women and girl children, we request that there should be a free supply of sanitaryware. These should be available at schools, clinics, universities and colleges and even here in Parliament — female MPs should get free sanitaryware. Male and female condoms are always placed at public places and why not sanitaryware to protect the health of women.”
Sibanda said it was ironic Zimbabwe was one of the best world producers of cotton yet its women could not afford sanitaryware, a cotton product.