Period Poverty: Africa’s Enigma

Not having enough money to meet basic needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter defines poverty.

According to the World Bank, poverty is hunger, lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to see a doctor, not having a job, not having access to school, fear for the future and living one day at a time.

Poverty is a complex societal issue that requires everyone’s attention.

Women and the girl child, besides experiencing poverty which affects mankind, they also experience period poverty.

Period poverty is defined as the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities or waste management.

Globally, 1,7 billion people live without basic sanitation services.

Nearly 1 in 10 African girls miss school due to lack of access to period products, a 2017 study by UNESCO reveals.

800 million people menstruate daily. 500 million people lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities.

Zimbabwe Situation

“About 62% of girls miss school during their periods”, a survey by Stichting Nederlandse Vrijwilligers (SNV) Zimbabwe reveals.

The largest number of the girls live in marginalised areas where sanitary ware is deemed a luxury.

The study notes that 72% of menstruating schoolgirls do no use sanitary products because they do not afford.

Zimbabwe’s 2023 national Budget slashed the schoolgirl’s sanitary wear budget by 80% although the Education Act requires that the schoolgirls be provided with free sanitary wear and menstrual health facilities.

Zimbabwean girls normally resort to using cow dung, dirty rags or tree leaves during their periods when they cannot afford pads or tampons.

This normally cause infections and complicated medical issues.

Key Issues About Period Poverty

Girls with disabilities disproportionately do not have access to the facilities and resources they need for proper menstrual hygiene.

Period poverty prevents teenage girls from going to school, participating in sports and social activities and then cause health problems.

Shortage of clean water also worsen the situation for girls to hygienically manage their period. Teen girls may also feel isolated and lonely if they cannot talk to anyone about what they are experiencing especially at a time when they are likely to be heavily influenced by the opinions of their peers.

The fear of bleeding through their uniforms due to lack of sanitary wear makes some girls to shun attending schools during the period.

Measures To Curtail Period Poverty

As the World prepares to commemorate the Menstrual Hygiene Day on the 28th May this year under the theme, “We are Committed”, corporates and individuals should start and support initiatives that promote access to menstruation products and information about menstruation, changes and hygiene practices.

Women should be facilitated to receive a diagnosis for menstrual cycle disorders and access to health care.

Water, sanitation and waste services should be provided to menstruating people for them care for themselves during menstruation.

Giving a voice to people engaged in addressing period poverty so as to amplify and normalise menstruation.

Ensuring a positive and supportive environment that allows menstruating people to participate in all aspects of life going to school, work and sport.

Legislation should passed and followed that capacitate schoolgirls by providing them with free sanitary ware.

Dirty jokes about menstruation should be criminalised.

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