ZIMBABWE’S young and vulnerable girls would soon be receiving free sanitary pads as part of government efforts to allay a social problem that has often seen girls from less privileged families forced to stay away from school during their menstrual periods.
This was revealed by Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Nyasha Chikwinya in parliament recently.
She had been harangued by MPs on why condoms were often issued out for free while girls were made to by sanitary ware.
Bulawayo proportional representation MP Thokozani Khuphe asked the minister why government could not avail sanitary pads in schools.
Khuphe said statistics have shown that a number of girls miss up to about 60 days of schooling per year adding that this ran contrary to efforts to break the circle of poverty if the girls’ education continued to be disrupted by the situation.
Mazowe South MP, Fortune Chasi also asked the minister as to when they shall consider placing sanitary pads in toilets and women rest rooms for easy accessibility.
Norton legislator Temba Mliswa, similarly, said the problem was more critical in rural areas adding that lack of sanitary ware lowered the girl child’s self esteem.
“Government has got money to buy condoms which are available for free but sanitary wear is not available for free,” Mliswa said.
“Is it because of misplaced priority because condom money is there but sanitary wear money is not there?
“…This is a serious matter that cannot be further delayed.
“These things must be here like yesterday, not tomorrow.”
But in her response, minister Chikwinya said some local companies have been contracted to supply sanitary pads that will be issued out for free.
“Coming to the issue of sanitary napkins and towels for women, we have two companies that we have approached that are going to give sanitary towels for women for free,” Chikwinya said.
“We have two companies that we have actually contracted to produce sanitary towels for those young girls she is talking about for free.
“One of the other companies has said we are unable to do it for free because of budgetary constraints, but we can sell the sanitary towels for 50c down from $1 and we are still looking into that.”
The crisis has often seen girls from less privileged families sometimes use tree leaves and dry cow dung as substitute for sanitary ware.