‘Menstrual period poverty threatens gild child’

A group of girls having a menstrual health talk

LIVING Dreams International founder, Florence Kayungwa has said the challenges faced by the girl child during the menstrual period are threatening her education and general well-being.

Her organisation has been advocating for the girl child to access sexual reproductive health facilities as well as donating sanitary pads to less privileged girls in Hurungwe and other communities of Mashonaland West.

The former University of Zimbabwe (UZ) student, Kayungwa, who is running a project to support the girl child mostly in rural areas, said the objective of the project was to make sure girls do not miss school.

She said the project was also motivated by her own experiences after suffering menstrual period poverty and shame because of failure to buy sanitary pads.“So, I just came across one of the well-wishers statement saying — what breaks your heart — and I reflected on my life and then found out that what breaks my heart is the fact that I suffered menstrual period poverty and shame so I should do something about it,” she explained.

“When the heart is being broken by something, you should be able to address that problem, especially in the community so I took it upon myself that no one will ever explain this more than me, because I have first-hand information because I experienced it and I can advocate for it using my own experience.

“For this initiative, I have friends who are in US who are helping me after sharing my story. They fell in love with the story and started helping me.”The project dubbed Period poverty seeks to make sure that the girl child receives reproductive health support during menstrual period.

A beneficiary Ruvarashe Matau told NewsDay over the weekend that menstrual period poverty seriously affected her academic performance.“My school attendances were varied and when my periods came, I used to miss lessons. My friends used to wonder why I was not coming to school for three days or a week, but I was unable to explain to them,” she said.

“My self-esteem was also low and until then I told myself that I will not be able to go to my dream school and I won’t be able to reach my goals and used to have this wish that I was never born a girl.”

Most communities in Zimbabwe suffer extreme poverty because access to menstrual products is limited and the products are pricey. While 88% of women and girls are accessing disposable sanitary products in urban areas, only 68% of their counterparts in rural areas were affording them, according to the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

This is forcing many women to opt for unsafe methods which include old rags and cow dung covered with cloth — especially in rural areas.Another scenario observed among girls was that at least 10% of the girls had no access to underwear which meant they would rather stay at home than face embarrassment at school.

A formative research on menstrual hygiene management final report released in December 2019 shows that disposable sanitary pads are commonly used and preferred for sanitary hygiene as they are considered by the majority (59,4%) of girls as highly effective.

The cost, however, has become prohibitive with many relying on less user-friendly and unacceptable sanitary materials such as old pieces of cloth (3,3% urban, 11,7% rural), tissue paper (0,1% urban and 0,4% rural) and cotton wool (0,6% urban, 1,7% rural).

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