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Zimbabwe Chiefs to Spearhead Menstrual Hygiene

Lindile Ndebele of SNV, a Dutch organization.

Lindile Ndebele of SNV, a Dutch organization.

Chiefs in some communities are committing to be menstrual hygiene ambassadors in order to spearhead a campaign to raise awareness and break taboo on good menstrual hygiene in adolescent girls.

Some school girls in rural areas are reportedly missing school when they are experiencing their periods due to lack of access to sanitary wear, a situation parents and chiefs hope to change.

A Netherlands based development organisation, SNV, is working with some rural communities in trying to bring awareness and teach young girls how to make recylable sanitary wear for Zimbabwe’s young girls.

Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) advisor for SNV, Lindile Ndebele, says her organisation is working with village heads and chiefs to teach them about menstrual hygiene so that they can impart the knowledge to their communities.

The organisation will Tuesday embark on awareness campaigns in different provinces to meet with village heads and chiefs to discuss the roles they can play in promoting menstrual health hygiene.

“Some chiefs have committed to be menstrual hygiene ambassadors in their communities and we are excited because once the traditional heads take a stance to promote our programmes the communities soon follow," said Ndebele.

"We will start our awareness programmes in Matabeleland North and South including Midlands on Tuesday moving on to traditional leaders in Manicaland and Masvingo on Wednesday and then rounding off with Mashonaland West, East and Central on Thursday, " added Mrs Ndebele.

Some parents in the rural areas are calling on the government to prioritize access to affordable sanitary wear for girls as more girl children are reportedly failing to attend school due to lack of such critical items.

This call has also been echoed by gender activists who met in the capital Harare last week to find ways to ensure that the girl child is not adversely affected by the lack of sanitary wear hence negatively impacting on their education when they are forced to stay away from school during menstrual periods.

"We have also been working with rural school girls to educate them on menstrual hygiene and making recycled sanitary pads which will enable them to go to school without fear of being ostracized when they mess themselves up," she said.

A grandmother from Chivi in Masvingo province, who identified herself as Ambuya Matizorofa, said she took some of her money that she had put aside for a rainy day to buy sanitary wear for her 14 year-old granddaughter who was missing class on her periods.

"Despite the harsh economic environment and hunger threatening our region I took $20 that I had saved to buy my granddaughter some sanitary wear so that she can use them throughout the school term. I don't want her to miss any school when she is on her period, I want her to have a better life than me through education" said Ambuya Matizorofa.

Ndebele said her organisation is also training school health masters in the Masvingo province where they are working in different wards. They are constructing girl-friendly toilets and incinerators in schools.

"The biggest challenge has been access to affordable sanitary wear and most girls that we work with in areas that have not yet started using recycled pads which we help them make themselves we have seen a high number of school absences by girls during their periods," said Ndebele.

She said this should be addressed urgently.