By Nhau Mangirazi
Modern day sanitary pads have made female menstrual hygiene easier notwithstanding their effect on the environment.
Sanitary pads contain up to 90 percent plastic and take between 500 – 800 years to breakdown. Apart from this, some of the plastic finds its way into nature, leaking into water sources and animal pastures.
However, for many girls around the world and in Zimbabwe, access to the sanitary pads is a pipe dream. Some women resort to using cow dung as an alternative thus exposing them to the risk of cervical cancer.
Kariba-based, Tony Waite Executive Director, Ellen Vengere, who has started a project to promote the adoption of reusable pads, narrated the ordeal faced by women as vulnerable members of the society.
‘Some women have confessed to using unhygienic means during menstrual periods. It has come out during peer education for youth and women’s health clubs when we discuss such topical issues, that some girls do not attend school during their menstrual cycles due to lack of sanitary wear.
“Other women use cow dung as well as pieces of rugs which are unhygienic. They risk their lives to cervical cancer and other infections,” says Vengere.
She pointed out that some schools distribute disposable sanitary wear for emergencies but at time these do not last the cycle that might take three to five days.
“We believe that we must be proactive and re-focus our energy and adopt reusable sanitary pads. The project we are embarking on in Kariba will be part of poverty alleviation and women and girl empowerment’ she said.
Reusable sanitary pads would be affordable and environmentally friendly. Vengere has high hopes for the project that will see women making cloth pads. She said start-up kits have already been procured.
“Women who have sewing skills have been identified and will cascade their skills to these girls. Project beneficiaries will be trained in business so as to properly run the project.
We have targeted at least 50 girls to benefit directly, but in the long run thousands will benefit indirectly as the project progresses through (the) sale of these pads,” explained Vengere.
Thirty-year old Chipo Munonga of Nyamhunga high density suburb in Kariba, said due to the sanitary pads were low on the list of priorities due to the economic hardships.
‘As a family, we have to think twice about spending money on sanitary pads for an individual or putting food on the table for the family. We are forced to endure … health hazards due to the use of unhealthy clothes during monthly periods,” she said.
The initiative to hit the resort town of Kariba may bring relief to a majority of women and girls currently hard pressed by economic challenges as sanitary pads are normally said to be a luxury.