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Fresh fight against period poverty

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Multiple stakeholders have scaled up the fight against period poverty across the country, distributing sanitary wear.

A non profit making organisation, Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe Trust (SAZT) is distributing sanitary wear to women and girls across the country.

Most women and girls in rural areas in Zimbabwe are said to be using unsafe means for period management.

As a result, SAZT is conducting workshops  and distributing sanitary wear, including menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads and disposable pads.

SAZT has so far distributed menstrual products to more than 50 000 beneficiaries in eight provinces.

“SAZT gives different types of menstrual products in different areas, depending on our  assessment. SAZT have so far distributed different types of products such as menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads, disposable pads, panties, bathing soap, laundry soap, petroleum jelly, washing buckets and others,”  SAZT  founder, Theresa Farai Nyava  told Business Times.

Nyava added: “Where we go, we also conduct menstrual hygiene education workshops for both girls and women as well as boys and men, to break menstrual taboos.

“We also give the trainees sewing kits and starting material for them to continue with their sewing projects as income generating projects that they can pursue to build resilience”.

SAZT said it will continue in its policy lobbying.

The organisation was instrumental in lobbying for the removal of duty on sanitary wear as well as lobbying for the Education Act to include issues of free provision of sanitary wear to school girls.

Nyava said: ”We currently have submitted a petition to Parliament calling for legislators to enact legislation which enforces universal provision of sanitary wear. So we believe that ending poverty takes more than one approach and more than one person, but a collective of efforts working together to make a big difference”.

Multiple studies have shown that  a significant number of women and girls across the country have no access to menstrual hygiene products, negatively impacting their lives.

Period poverty, which is the inability to access menstrual supplies such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups, has led to school absenteeism among girls of school going age.

According a recent report by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, 67% of girls miss school due to lack of sanitary pads.

The report showed that some menstruating girls resort to using unconventional materials to manage their period flow.

Some, the report indicated, use materials such as tissues, old clothes, plastics and some even use cow dung.

In Masvingo Province, girls are exposed to a shona traditional practice called “kutsindira”, which obliges the girl child to induldge into sex once she realises that she  was going through torrid times during her maiden menstrual cycles.

It is understood the practice is rampant in Mwenezi district in areas around Maranda, Nikita and  Rushumbe.

Malipati area in Chiredzi, Mukore area in Bikita  are other places where the practice is believed to be taking place.

Multiple stakeholders, however, castigated  the practice.

Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council information and communication officer in Masvingo province, Herbert Chikosi told Business Times that this practice was in total violation of the girl child`s rights and exposes girls to unnecessary pregnancy, early marriages and the subsequent danger of sexually transmitted diseases.

“We are fighting hard to restore order among women’s rights in the province. We totally condone this practice. Girls end up succumbing to early marriages. They end up becoming victims of sexually transmitted diseases. Some end up being victims of unwanted pregnancies. We are engaging chiefs, councilors and other stakeholders.We are also carrying out massive awareness campaign programmes against this practice of “kutsindira” in a bid to liberate the girl child,” Chikosi said.

Zimbabwe human rights lawyer Martin Mureri said as long as there is no consent this was illegal.

“As we speak, the Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the legal age of consent for sex should be raised to 18 from 16, a judgment that was welcomed by many people in the country. As long as the so-called kutsindira practice is being imposed on the girl child without consent, this is void at law. It is ultra vires. The custom totally violets children’s rights,” Mureri said.

Masvingo Police spokesperson Inspector, Kudakwashe Dhewa professed ignorance concerning the practice.

He, however, said, police will investigate the matter.

“Apparently we haven`t received any case to do with such a practice. We are definitely going to investigate the issue. As long as there is no consent this is tantamount to rape case. Worse off, if the child is still under the legal age of consent,” Dhewa said.

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