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Women are bleeding

Women bleed (menstruate) every month due to physiological processes

MAO TSE-TUNG once remarked, “Chinese men are under the burden of three mountains — imperialism, feudalism and backwardness and the Chinese women are under the burden of four mountains — imperialism, feudalism, backwardness and Chinese men.”

According to Mao Tse-tung, the factors that accounted for women’s oppression in China during his time seemed to be parallel and yet coterminous when it came to the welfare, well-being and independence of women.

Mao Tse-tung did not tell the entire story in his analysis of the tribulations of women, how come he elided nature as another variable working in intimate cahoots with the above variables to complexify the biological grammar of women?

Women bleed (menstruate) every month due to physiological processes. This natural biological process comes with limited individual liberties for women due to hormonal changes. For example, some women may become horny towards their menstruation and cannot take the initiative to reach out to men for intimacy because of gender socialisation, others experience severe cramps and mood swings. During menstruation women need sanitary towels and sanitary pads to feel comfortable and to go about their daily businesses with a sense of confidence. It is the intention of this opinion to highlight that when women bleed it is the duty of the State to respect, protect and fulfil their diverse needs and rights during this ephemeral period of carrying the burden of nature. 

Women bleed as a result of nature, they do not bleed out of choice. It is worrisome that intimacy between men and women that is done out of choice has its concerns for protection covered through the provision of free condoms in both public and private spaces like colleges, toilets, hospitals, food courts, hotels and beerhalls. Women and girls experience menstruation at different times of the month, and this natural process comes with varied changes in behavioural and biological patterns. For example, a young girl experiencing menstruation would need to attend classes, go about every chores that need to be done in the private arena and participate in sporting activities with all the confidence she can muster.

The capacity for a woman to go about her sex and gender roles during menstruation is highly depended on a sense of security regarding the extent to which the bleeding is being managed. Most women and girls experience period poverty, that is they have no money to buy sanitary wae or pads, even those ones with the capacity to buy pads, they may not buy enough pads to follow the rigorous regime of changing the pads, that is at least three times a day. For school-going girls, the absence or inadequacy of sanitary wear may lead to loss of confidence and absenteeism from school and this may disrupt enrolment, retention and completion of studies.

The bleeding of women and girls does not define and rule women and girls as a homogeneous group with shared interests, as it comes with differential impacts and to that effect those with the responsibility to look after the welfare of women should understand and appreciate that women’s practical and strategic needs, as a result of this biological process, may differ but one point of convergence for all of them is the need to manage the bleeding through sanitary wear.

Women and girls that cannot afford sanitary wear in most cases end up resorting to unhygienic means of managing the menstrual flow like using pieces of cloth (rags) that may cause infections, cow dung that may even cause further discomfort and irritations and leaves that may irritate and take away their sense of womanhood. Needles should just be put in their right places, why would rags, leaves, cow-dung be used instead of sanitary pads?

It is important for the readership to understand that when women bleed, the bleeding needs management so that their other daily activities are not compromised. A woman who is bleeding needs the support of his brother, husband, uncle and the State.

A girl who is bleeding needs the social and economic support of his siblings, father, class mates, peers, teachers and State. The bottom line here is that women and girls should not feel out of place because nature has called on them. It is the collective thinking of the writers of this opinion piece that the State, above all as guided by the directional and living document of the land, the Constitution of 2013 under section 3g which talks about gender equality should ensure that sanitary wear is made available for all women and girls.

Gender equality which is the ultimate goal of gender mainstreaming cannot be fully realised if women and girls’ practical and strategic needs are not considered in terms of programming. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that sanitary wear for women and girls is as necessary as water is to fish and that water also is as necessary to women and girls at all times just as sovereignty is to any country under the sun.

Women and girls need their confidence during this natural cyclone of menstruation and the State should ensure that nothing should take away their sense of womanhood during this period by even fencing off votes from the fiscus for free sanitary wear for our mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. The individuality of women per se cannot be complete when they know that they are bleeding yet no one is giving attention to that bleeding.

Women are already under the burden of the mountain of toxic masculinity and this toxic masculinity has defined and ruled them according to “essentialism if not vaginalism”, something that already has further eroded their active participation in matters that affect them.

To that effect, the State is under obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the natural right of women and girls to bleeding by providing free sanitary wearw for them.


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