The cost of sanitary pads remains exceedingly high for many people living in Zimbabwean rural areas. Despite the Government’s pronouncement of Statutory Instrument 3 of 2020. The SI extended suspension of duty on sanitary wear for women, sadly the cost of pads remains high.
In Zimbabwe, sanitary pads are a frill for most women as the majority live way below the poverty datum line. The majority of families’ daily expenditures hardly surpass a mere US$1, a clear testimony that they are living in debilitating poverty.
Responding to the calamity, HOCIC, through a grant by Kindernothilfe is training 300 adolescent girls and young women on how to make re-usable pads. The trainings that will cover 6 wards of Umguza, Bubi and Umzingwane aim to reduce the hazards associated with menstrual poverty.
During a training on re-usable pads making on 16 March 2021, Umguza ward 4 Councillor, Mlungisi Dube grieved the exorbitant price of sanitary wear. He said the price continues to be beyond the reach of many women and young girls in his ward. He thanked HOCIC for the erstwhile training which will help women and young girls.
“The cost of pads is so high that many young girls and women can’t afford. When you factor in the income levels of most households in ward 4, you realise that they barely can afford. Despite the customs Statutory Instruments designed to reduce costs and improve access to this important sexual reproductive product,” he said.
COVID-19 and Cost of living
“The training conducted today is important because it means girls and young women have pads all the time. It is a cheap and safer way to ensure the protection of our female children in the ward”, Cllr Dube added.
Since the nationwide lock down due to the novel corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic, prices of basic commodities have hit the roof as retailers cash in and maximise profits.
COVID-19 induced high cost of living is coincides with budget priorities which for a long time negate sanitary pads. Monthly household budgets rarely consider sanitary pads. This is a crucial factor affecting many young girls.
Priscillar Ngwira, a mother of two adolescent girls (16 &13) said,
“I have never considered pads to be part of our budget because I make very little money. I am a single parent of 2 adolescent girls whom I must buy pads for. We cannot afford a single packet of pads because the most important thing is food. So we buy food, if we are lucky to have change, we buy 1 packet which we will divide”.
Sanitary pads are not part of the budget
With inflation hurtling, and prices going beyond the reach of many, women have been hit hard, as they have have to compromise their sexual reproductive health.
Ngwira’s experience is closely similar to Motilia Ngwenya, a mother to two adolescent girls (17&15) who said,
“The training on re-usable pads has come at a right time. My two girls and I will let go the habit of picking any piece of uncomfortable cloth to use. We all received the training, and we will sew more pads. I am so happy that there is no single day my girls will have to miss school because of their periods,”.
Re-usable pads are an ideal alternative to improving sexual reproductive health rights of adolescent girls and women because they are cost effective and durable. However, hygiene lessons need to be emphasised. Privilege Sibanda the Community Development Coordinator for Umguza in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Development , Small to Medium Enterprises alerted that there is now need to place emphasis on hygiene now that girls use re-usable sanitary pads.
“There is need to place emphasis on hygiene because girls might relax thinking reusable pads can hold their periods longer. As an office we will be working with HOCIC to train girls and women on re-sable pads, but our focus will be on emphaising the aspect of hygiene,” Privilege Sibanda said