HARARE junior mayor Elton Phiri has launched an ambitious project, dubbed Million Pad Campaign, to mobilise at least one million sanitary pads for underprivileged girls, mostly in rural areas, to ensure they do not stay out of school due to lack of sanitary wear.
By VENERANDA LANGA
Phiri said the campaign was also aimed at educating men to better appreciate the difficulties girls and women go through in terms of menstrual hygiene, so that they can also support them with sanitary wear.
NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) last week interviewed Phiri (EP) over a number of issues during an Orange Day Zimbabwe function organised by the United Nations Association (ZUNA).
Below are excerpts from the interview:
ND: Who is Elton Phiri?
EP: I am a 19-year-old student at Allan Wilson High School. I am a Lower Sixth form student studying sciences.
ND: When were you elected as junior mayor of Harare and what are your key responsibilities?
EP: I was elected junior mayor on September 22. The competition was very stiff with nine contestants, but I won. I possess very good attributes like that I am a good orator.
I can best describe myself as a social animal, and, above all, I exhibit very good leadership qualities like I am able to give direction to other children.
The key responsibilities of my junior mayoral post are to ensure there is provision of needs to other children in Harare.
I have to identify their problems and find solutions to them. I chair the junior council. I am a community leader as well and it is imperative that I ensure children’s voices are heard and their needs met.
The issues include lack of sanitary wear for girls, high rates of school drop outs due to economic difficulties in areas such as Epworth, drug abuse by youths and children, and even child labour, where young girls are being used as strippers at nightclubs.
Other problems experienced by school children include the fear of being mugged while travelling to school and the threats posed by commuter omnibus drivers that are negligent on the roads, and spikes thrown at moving transport by the police.
These pose threats to children using public transport while travelling to schools. Civil unrest is also another fear for school children as teargas can be thrown while they are walking in the streets.
ND: Tell me about the Million Pads Campaign. When did it begin and why?
EP: We began the campaign in April this year as an initiative to raise a million packs of sanitary wear to be donated to the less privileged girls.
It began as a very small project to supply Harare, but we ended up seeing different organisations taking an interest and coming on board to partner with us to make it an international campaign.
ND: How successful has the project been?
EP: Recently, we had a million pad campaign (padathon) at the mayoral mansion (Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni’s official residence) in Gunhill on October 26, which was graced by businessman Philip Chiyangwa, who donated 1 334 pads towards the initiative.
We have also received a pledge to donate one million pads by Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries founder Prophet Walter Magaya. We are yet to receive the donation.
Approximately 300 people attended the function and the entry fee was that they bring five packs of pads. We have currently raised more than 6 500 pads. We also sell raffle tickets and look for sponsors, so that we buy more pads.
ND: Do you think the project will be sustainable?
EP: Of course, in the sense that now we have received a donation of sewing machines from Maureen Mandipadza, a Zimbabwean based in the United Kingdom.
These machines will be used to sew reusable pads which can last for three years. We will also be supplying soap with the reusable pads to ensure they are hygienic.
ND: What really urged you to begin the Million Pads Campaign?
EP: It should be everyone’s responsibility to make sure women enjoy their rights to health. At first, it was something new to me because I never used to understand the issues of sanitary wear. I thought it is only a girls’ issue and I used to think it is a shame.
But, when I was told of the negative effects my heart really sank. I heard different stories of how underprivileged girls were using tissue paper, old newspapers, leaves, and even cattle manure as sanitary wear. It really saddened me.
I also did not know that lack of sanitary wear could cause girls to drop out of school or miss lessons. I then decided that even though I am a man, I have to embrace the Million Pad Campaign and support girls in menstrual hygiene issues.
ND: What has been the impact of the campaign?
EP: Many people have now come on board and school children are willing to take up the campaign and also make donations. We will be launching the campaign at different schools where school children will be Million Pad Campaign agents. We will donate the pads to remote areas of the country such as Chihota communal lands and some poor high-density suburbs of Harare, as well as child headed homes.
If there are people who wish to make donations towards the project they can go to Town House and see Itai Dedeya the Junior Council focal person, or come to Allan Wilson High School to donate through me as I am a student at the school.