As Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe, we have been providing different menstrual necessities to address the needs of the underprivileged girls.
Firstly, in some rural schools, there are no water facilities, making it impossible for girls to wash their hands before and after changing their sanitary pads, risking getting yeast infections, bacteria and Hepatitis B.
We have been identifying places most affected and providing them with hand sanitizers.
Further, SNV Zimbabwe established that 75% of schools in Zimbabwe do not have emergency sanitary wear for girls who might start their periods unexpectedly, as well as pain relievers.
As Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe, we have been providing emergency sanitary pads and pain relievers to different schools in the townships as well as in the countryside. Other pain relievers are also provided to homeless girls.
From our experience, some homeless girls are now addicted to sniffing glue because they started to sniff it to escape the pains they experience when they are menstruating.
We also provide underwear and shaving sticks, especially for the homeless and rural girls. We have realized from our experiences that many rural girls and homeless women do not even have underwear, and it will be therefore important to first provide underwear before pads.
As Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe, we have a training programme for schools in rural areas, townships and high density suburbs to sew reusable cloth menstrual pads for every girl in school.
Many rural and township secondary schools in Zimbabwe teach Fashion and Fabrics as a practical subject and some already have equipment to use.
All they require is training and materials to start sewing the reusable pads.
Where the school does not have Fashion and Fabrics subject, we have been mobilizing basic equipment and forming health clubs where we train them to make reusable pads and other life skills.
To make it cost effective, we mainly target teachers and train them so that they will then provide further training to their students.
We have also been working with women in poor communities, teaching them to hand stich their own reusable pads; and empowering them to improve their livelihoods by making extra pads and trade them to other female members of their communities who are also in need.
We have also started a programme to train women in poor communities soap making and detergents to help improve their hygiene.
As Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe, we have observed that menstruation issues are often not given the attention they deserve by various stakeholders.
To encourage more efforts and innovative ideas in ending period poverty in the country, we host annual awards, with different categories, to recognize the valuable contributions made by different people in fighting period poverty.
The annual national awards are held on World Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28 May.
We are also in the process of launching high school essay competitions whereby boys and girls will write essays on the subject of menstruation and period stigma and the top 10 essays will win prizes with their essays also being published in the quarterly magazine and national press.
We believe that the competition will help adolescents to get more information about menstruation and to have positive attitudes that will break the current stigma and taboos that only exist to perpetuate period poverty.
As Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe, we always seek to foster change through lobbying and advocacy.
Currently, we are lobbying that as the Zimbabwean government is amending the Education Act to foster free education (as resources permit), it should also provide free sanitary wear and potable water to school children.
We are also lobbying for government to put a subsidy on menstrual products and also provide local manufacturers of sanitary pads with adequate foreign currency to retool and to procure adequate raw materials to produce sanitary wear competitively.
We have made several engagements with Parliamentarians and government authorities and also published or featured in a number of news articles lobbying and advocating for various measures to be implemented to end period poverty.
A study conducted by SNV Zimbabwe established that 52% of Zimbabwean girls in school are not getting specific lessons on menstrual health management.
Menstrual hygiene education is important as it enables girls to manage menstruation in a way that does not put them at risk of infections that will go untreated. It also empowers girls to fully take control of their periods with confidence.
We have an education programme whereby we go to schools and do presentations to girls on how to manage their periods; but is limited in scope by lack of resources.
Boys are also taught to support their menstruating peers and not humiliate or stigmatize girls who are having their periods.
It has been established that 54% of Zimbabwean girls experience mocking or stigmatization, with 26% reported isolation and 13% say boys call them names during menstruation.
It is our plan to also distribute pamphlets and DVDs with animations teaching period anti-shaming and anti-bullying.
We have started a quarterly magazine on the subject of periods to help girls understand everything they need to know about it.
Given how disposable sanitary pads have to be bought every month and have once-off usage, many households sometimes do not have the money.
We have therefore moved in to provide reusable cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups, as resources permit.
We have recently started a programme to manufacture the reusable pads on our own.
These are very sustainable and can be used over and over, with a new standard issued by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe saying reusable cloth pads can be used for up to 30 months.
To avoid repeatedly giving people sanitary pads every month, which is not cost-effective, we are transitioning to this sustainable solution which can take care of a girl’s periods for about two and half years.
We have started with with the poorest of the poor, who are at high risk of having their lives ruined if the vicious cycle of period poverty is not broken once and for all.
As for the homeless girls, we understand that water is a big challenge for them and we have started on a small scale to provide them with menstrual cups that are easy to clean and don’t require a lot of water to clean, and also have a longer lifespan of up to ten years.
Resources are however limiting the scope of this programme.