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Embassy steps in to save girls menstrual health

12 Jun 2019 at 07:58hrs | Views
Have you felt so bad that you no longer wanted to live,  that is how teen girls are feeling when they get strange stares from their peers because they may have messed themselves with menstrual blood in public places or at school.

These incidents were common during my teen years at school, some times I would skip lessons in order to make sure I finished this God given right at home. Because we could not afford the sanitary pads old cloths came in handy during this time and I sometimes suffered from acute anxiety and felt sad and hopeless.

Years after my school years most girls in Zimbabwe still find themselves in the same situation, skipping school because they cannot afford sanitary wear. Runaway prices in most shops have forced most girls and women to do without sanitary pads at this crucial time of the month for every woman.

This however is despite the ruling government that sanitary pads were excluded from paying duty when they are imported into the country. Women activists pointed out that girls in both rural and urban areas continue to bear the brunt of price hikes especially on sanitary wear.

"We continue to have reports of women and girls having problems when they go for their periods, some are reportedly skipping classes and are forced to spend time at home. It's a violation of their rights and by right they should access sanitary pads at a lower cost, but the prices have been going up almost every day and we are wondering what is happening," said Marian Sibanda who once worked with the Girl Child Network and now living in South Africa.

In a show of solidarity with the affected girls the Swedish Embassy has embarked on a programme to look into the menstrual health of disadvantaged girls in remote Zimbabwe, providing sanitary pads and psychological support.

An official with Swedish Embassy Matt Senegen Head of Mission confirmed working with poor girls in some parts of Zimbabwe and said her embassy saw the need to respect the girl's rights to health care hence the provision of that support.

"We want to demystify the misconception of the issues surrounding menstrual health. We should help to break the taboos around girls and women not attending school or work because of the stigma attached around menstrual heal," she said.

The support has exposed the military government's lies that it was supporting rural girls with the needed sanitary pads and that it was highly subsidizing the price of the pads in supermarkets and pharmacies where they are mainly sold.

The sanitary ware is mostly donated by concern western governments or imported from nearby South Africa, but before reaching the intended beneficiaries they are quickly diverted to senior party officials stores and pharmacies.

Women's groups have been calling for the price review of the pads but this has not been the case as corrupt government officials diverted them to the black market. There are also reports that sanitary ware donated for Cyclone Idai which affected hundreds of families in Manicaland Province in Eastern Zimbabwe have gone missing.

Some of the sanitary ware was being sold in the Mbare Markets for exorbitant prices that are beyond the reach of the urban poor girls and women.

The feeling of the girls undergoing their menstrual cycle isrelentless and they often feel depressed and worthless, the feelings I also had I was always sad during this time to the point of shedding tears.

If a government can fail to respect the rights of women it becomes so devastating and disgusting.

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Makho Precious, I write my personal opinions as a free spirit standing for women's rights and space in society

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