Menstrual hygiene- A right for every girl child
By Charity Dube
Rudo Sialumba (17) is a student at a high school in Tshabalala, a high density suburb in Bulawayo metropolitan province. Rudo says menstruation determines her academic participation and failure to get sanitary pads affects her performance.
Rudo is currently doing her ordinary level and will be sitting her final examinations at the end of the year. She says since she started menstruation, she has experienced challenges that have often times forced her to stay at home when others are going to school.
“During my period, I require about two packets of sanitary pads. Each packet has ten disposable pads and costs an average of US$1 per packet. This is a huge amount considering that my parents are struggling to get money for my school fees. Accessing sanitary pads is key to my consistent participation,” says Rudo.
Rudo says she and many other girls at her school lose a couple of days each month because of menstrual related issues.
“The problem is not only limited to failing to access the pads but menstruation comes with other conditions such as headaches, stomach pains and fever. These conditions are difficult to manage and the option will be to skip lessons. However, schools do not have provisions for supporting girls who are experiencing these challenges,” says Rudo.
Rudo feels that a wide variety of disposable and reusable pads, tampons and menstruation cups should be at the disposal of every woman and girls so that they can have their own pick of what is comfortable for them.
“The government and the Ministry of Health should provide free menstruation resources at local clinics and schools the same way they are providing free condoms. We should not miss class during our periods because of failing to access services. Girls are at a disadvantage compared to boys and measures should be taken to address that challenge,” says Rudo.
Abigail Mkomana (16) another Ordinary Level candidate from Magwegwe North says she is often forced to use tissue paper when in dire straits during her periods.
“On the days when my aunt does not have money to buy me sanitary pads from the supermarket, I have resolved to using tissue paper as pads and then wear two or three panties to keep it in place. It is really hard to attend class when you are padding with tissue paper because it leaks and you spoil your uniform and then the boys have a field day laughing about your misfortunes. I would rather stay home and miss class than face that humiliation and shame,” she said with a sad face.
Nokulunga Moyo (21), a student studying at a tertiary college says menstruation is a big challenge for young girls in Zimbabwe.
“When I was in Form 3, I soiled my uniform during my period. I had used cotton as padding because I had ran out of sanitary pads. I would have missed class but because we were writing our end of term examinations, I had attend. I wore two panties so that the cotton wool will not move up my backside. During the exam, I could feel blood flowing out and it made me very uneasy. After the exam, as we stood up to leave I heard whispers, giggles and laughter from behind me, it seemed I had messed up my uniform. I wished the floor would open up and swallow me alive, I was so embarrassed I wanted to die,” says Nokulunga.
Menstruation should not be something to be ashamed of, yet for most young girls it is. Sharon Maphosa (15) says she is not comfortable talking about menstruation issues with her mother.
“It is sort of weird to me to discuss menstruation and sexual issues with my mother. I just cannot look straight into her face during such discussions. I do not mind talking about these issues with my friends or cousins but not with my mother. It just makes me feel uncomfortable although I do appreciate her sincerity and guidance. She has helped me to make right choices in life unlike the advice from my friends,” says Sharon.
Sharon adds that her own mother told her that she never got such guidance as a young girl that is why she bore Sharon at the tender age of sixteen, a mistake she does not want her daughter to repeat.