By Phyllis Mbanje
Gender activists and human rights defenders today celebrate World Menstruation Day amid calls on societies to break down global taboos around menstruation (a natural bodily function), and discuss pertinent issues like hygiene and access to proper sanitary supplies.
Zimbabwe is among countries in the developing world in which the subject is not adequately discussed based on cultural perceptions that view it as shameful and dirty.
This is despite the fact that girls in poor settings and female prisoners do not have access to sanitary essentials, a situation which can be humiliating to women. Some prisoners use toilet tissue and pieces of cloth as sanitary wear substitutes.
Female parliamentarians have implored the government to put in place measures that will ensure that female prisoners have sanitary supplies.
In March, they took Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister, through some sanitary wear lessons.
This was after a question had been posed on what government was doing in addressing the issue of female prisoners and the VP indicated that he had no idea what sanitary pads looked like.
In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, girls can miss up to five days of school a month or drop out entirely due to insufficient access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and sanitary supplies.
To raise awareness on the subject May 28 has been set aside as “Menstruation Day” and this year the theme is Let’s End the Hesitation Around Menstruation.
Initiated by WASH United in 2014, the day has garnered the support of over 230 global partners that are unified in their commitment to make good menstrual health and hygiene a priority.
Despite the fact that menstruation is a healthy biological process, in many places all over the world it is approached with hesitancy and misinformation because of deep–rooted cultural taboos.
The silence around menstruation limits women’s and adolescent girls’ access to relevant and important information about their bodies, directly affecting their health, education and human rights.
“Breaking down global taboos so that we can discuss this natural bodily function has positive impacts beyond a woman’s reproductive health,’’ says Dr Dani Barrington, WASH Specialist and Strategic Advisor for MH Day in Australia.
Real Opportunities for Transformation Support’s (ROOTS) director Beatrice Savadye said her organisation would be sending out individual letters to parliamentarians to prioritise budgeting for Menstrual Hygiene Management.