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‘Period Poverty’ Hits Hard On Rural Girls, Teachers Forced To Chip In

The worsening economic situation in the country has forced school teachers from Shamva district to use their own resources to purchase and hand out sanitary pads to their pupils to ensure they do not miss school.

During a community sensitization meeting and launch of HIVOS project  “Youth Access Initiative” by HOPE for Adolescents and Youth last week Friday in Shamva, 263Chat spoke to one of the teachers who confirmed that the prevailing situation and the price of sanitary wear has hit hard on rural girls.

The teacher who preferred anonymity said the situation in the district was so bad that pupils end up absconding from school during their periods.

“The problem we are mainly facing with pupils here is that when they are on their monthly periods, majority of them cannot afford to buy pads. As a teacher I end up chipping in and giving her my own pads. They come and notify us that they have started their periods. We are left with no choice but to help.

“Sanitary pads are a big challenge especially for us from the rural side of the country,” she said.

Prices of sanitary pads have been soaring with the cheapest packet going for at least ZWL19.00.

Faced with such a problem, young girls in Shamva have resorted to using cloths, unprocessed cotton or missing school.

In addition, one of the ladies said sometimes when they use cloths they are unable to walk long distances or even participating in sporting activities as the cloth can just drop in public which is embarrassing especially for school going children.

“When we use the cloths we cannot walk for long distances as it causes friction between the thighs. In addition, the cloth can also drop when you are in the middle of something. This also makes you uncomfortable being around other people,” explained Mai Matizanadzo.

A 2015 survey by the Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs, indicates that 20 percent of girls miss school due to period pain while 67 percent miss school due to lack of pads and 26 percent stay home because of heavy flows during menstruation.

HOPE for Adolescents and Youth Managing Director, Michelle Ndlovu however reiterated that as an organization they have been given another grant by the US Embassy focusing on responding to menstrual health management.

“This is a HIVOS funded project but we were recently awarded another grant by the US Embassy under PEPFAR. This grant will be focusing on responding to the menstrual health management challenges being faced by young girls and women in this ward.

“We will be responding to these needs by training them to sew handmade reusable pads as well as machine made reusable pads. Advantage of these is reusable pads is that you can use it for at least two years and it needs to be sun dried which is more like sterilizing it because we have noticed that the women and children here do not have access to disposable pads.

“The disposable pads are now expensive and they cannot afford. And we want to able to improve their access and use at least use something hygienic. We are also training them on how to manage their menses and break the silence, taboos around menstrual management.” said Ndlovu.

In Zimbabwe young people’s reproductive health needs are often neglected by existing reproductive health services. There is lack of affirming and tailored SRHR services for young people in Shamva district.

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