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Dialogue on menstruation matters

This year’s Menstrual Hygiene Day was held during a pandemic and as a means of celebrating the day, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) held a radio discussion on Menstruation Hygiene with Buhle Nkomo, a Youth Activist and Bulawayo City Council Ward Councilor, Sinikiwe Mutanda.

Menstrual Hygiene Day is a day that aims to raise awareness and change negative social norms around menstruation and create a world in which everyone is empowered to manage menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame.

“Women are affected by the affordability of sanitary wear as most of the prices have since gone beyond the reach of many,” said Buhle Nkomo, a Youth Activist. “Pads and tampons are very expensive and the price of a packet of pads ranges between $50ZWL and $120ZWL, depending on the brand.”

Mutanda said local authorities strive to include menstrual hygiene management through relevant policies. Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has a Gender Policy that covers menstrual hygiene management and according to the Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Plan under the Council Gender Action Plan provides for action to be taken, ensure the effective access of menstrual hygiene facilities and products for women and girls.

“Women and girls end up going around carrying used sanitary pads due to the absence of clean menstrual hygiene facilities,” said Councilor Mutanda. “The action plan aims at advocating for menstrual hygiene to be taken seriously in places such as churches and schools, particularly in the City of Bulawayo.”

Allegiance to culture and religion in the society has emerged a major contributor to the stigma that a number of women have to fight against during their years of menstruating.

“Members in the Apostolic Sect disallow women and girls to attend services whenever they are menstruating, referring to them as ‘unclean’,” added Councilor Mutanda. “Denying a woman an ability to worship because she is on her monthly period is a form of discrimination.”

Nkomo said that men and women need to be actively involved in the discussions about menstruation so as to eliminate the stigma that is associated with menstrual hygiene management.

“This year more men were actively involved in the conversations about menstrual hygiene, especially through social media,” said Nkomo.

The speakers noted that easing the burden that women and girls encounter whenever they are on their monthly periods and ensuring that menstrual hygiene management is effectively advocated for has its own challenges.

“The country’s economy is not as stable as it should be for women and girls to receive the assistance they deserve regarding menstrual hygiene management,” added Councilor Mutanda. “Re-usable sanitary wear can also be stressful to use especially when there is need for adequate and available clean water and electricity.”

“A woman goes on her period for three to four days and on the other hand the City Council has an ongoing 144-hour water shedding schedule, which further makes it impossible for one to maintain good personal hygiene,” cited Councilor Mutanda.

Nkomo implored the government to regulate the prices of sanitary wear so that local retailers desist from taking advantage of the nationwide lockdown.

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