“What is important is that the public should start discussing this matter. For men, they should open up and participate in this campaign"
The Sunday News, May 31: GIRLS of school-going age are “grossly affected by menstruation” and can miss up to five days of school a month or drop out entirely due to lack of access to sanitary wear, a development which calls for accepting cultural transformation where males play a role in supporting the girl child, a traditional leader has said. Speaking at a function to mark World Menstruation Day in Masvingo at Chirichoga High School, Chief Musara, who is also the country’s ambassador of menstruation hygiene, said taboos and stigma associated with menstruation should be dealt with so that the girl child can enjoy equal freedom and human rights to the boy child. The commemorations ran under the theme “Let’s End the Hesitation Around Menstruation.” “There are so many taboos that are associated with menstruation and it is difficult to ignore them when we are dealing with this matter which seems to affect the girl child,” said Chief Musara. “Culture has to be dynamic and address the matter with the urgency it deserves and also accept that there is stigma which has to be faced. In the past, it was taboo to discuss menstruation in public or for the father to buy pads or sanitary ware for a girl child. But, today we are saying let us talk about it because the girl child is grossly affected by menstruation.” He emphasised that the safety and the development of the girl child should be the priority of all stakeholders regardless of gender. Chief Musara said men should take a leading role and play their part in ensuring that menstruation does not affect the girlchild. SNV Netherlands Development Organisation commissioned studies in Binga, Lupane, Mangwe, Insiza, Beitbridge, Nkayi, Chivi, Gokwe North, Gokwe South, Mberengwa and Masvingo districts to inform interventions where they discovered that 45 percent of girls use pieces of old clothes and rags, 29 percent use cotton wool, 18 percent pads, while three percent use newspapers and leaves. Water sanitation and hygiene senior advisor at SNV, Mrs Lindile Ndebele said the issue of menstruation should be openly discussed so that girls can feel comfortable. She said most girls were subjected to bullying; some were called funny names and others were even isolated by boys if they discovered they were on their periods. Said Mrs Ndebele: “What is important is that the public should start discussing this matter. For men, they should open up and participate in this campaign. Most girls do not go to school when they are on menstruation hence this means that the girl child will every month miss a week of learning and this affects her education. “We have discovered that 22 percent of girls at puberty stage start menstruating unprepared. Most girls get booed at by boys when they are menstruating and this kills their morale and they skip lessons or even drop out of schools.” The commemorations, which are being held for the first time in the country, saw the viewing of girl friendly latrines at Chirichoga High School which are also accessible to the disabled. The toilets, first to be set up in the country, have piped water, bins for disposing used sanitary wear and water buckets for washing hands. Close to the toilet is an incinerator where disposable sanitary wear is being recycled. The machine is specifically designed for schools and its carbon emission is environmentally friendly. This story was first published in The Sunday News.