By Buhle Mhlanga
A local organisation called Inspire Women and Children which aims to support the poor and the needy, recently held a one day workshop on making reusable pads in Pelandaba Bulawayo.
The training which focused on teaching participants from different communities including members of non-governmental organisations, private voluntary organisations and trusts, how to sew washable, reusable sanitary pads came at a time when there has been an outcry from women’s rights groups about the high cost of sanitary wear and a call on government to help subsidies or remove costs on such basic needs.
Currently the prices of sanitary wear range between $2 and $4 for a packet of eight pads.
Also at the training were two men, which was a reflection of the community ownership in efforts to help women and girls access this basic need.
The training also helped to share basic facts on the unsafe padding methods being used by women and girls during their menstruation cycle. Vulnerable and poor groups were now forced to use newspapers, tissues, cow dung or animal hyde, opening them up to health risks like cervical cancers among other deadly diseases.
Last week the Minister if Finance Mthuli Ncube pledged to remove all duty on sanitary wear when he announces his budget statement for 2019 on 22 November. This move is seen as positive as it will lead to considerable cut in the cost of pads. Reusable pads are becoming a popular alternative for communities in a bid to drastically reduce costs and health risks associated with using unhygienic padding methods.
Lindiwe Maseko, the facilitator at the workshop emphasised the benefits of using reusable pads stating that they were an economic and manageable method because they are environmentally friendly and cost effective.
One of the men who took part in this training, but refused to be named, told Amakhosikazi Media that he felt it was important for men to also learn more about the female reproductive system, how it works and how cost and access to sanitary wear affects women and girls.
“ We must be able to understand more about sanitary wear beyond just see them on shop shelves or just buying them for our partners or daughters without more knowledge on it,” he said. “Men must stop stigmatising menstruation as it is a natural occurrence which no one choses” he added.
While the government of Zimbabwe has pledged to scrap duty on sanitary wear, the long term strategy is to ensure that the woman and the girl child face no direct cost related to accessing sanitary pads.
1 in 10 girls miss school due to menstruation which is still viewed as a "dirty occurance" and a major taboo in Zimbabwe.
Inspire Women and Children is implementing the pads making project in Umguza and Bulawayo. Besides imparting knowledge on sanitary pads designing and making, the project also teaches women and girls about sexual reproductive health.
Patience Ndebele-Omijie, the founder of Inspire Women and Children said under #Nomorewhispering about Menstruation, breaking cultural taboos around menstruation hygiene is key. No more whispering seeks to ensure that women and girls can speak freely about their experiences as well as not be limited by something as natural as their periods. Through this training she said she envisions that no women or girl will miss school, work or other productive activities due to not having sanitary pads. "This skill must enable women and girls to reach their fullest potentials" she said.