WOMEN in Africa have often been a highly oppressed group of people and as a result issues to do with women tend to be swept under the carpet or completely ignored by the powers that be.
However, with more women slowly penetrating different forms of the public sphere, issues that affect women are gradually being addressed.
Topping the list of predicaments that affect women is indisputably the issue of menstrual health and the high cost of sanitary wear which has sparked a lot of noise in public forums such as Parliament where in July women legislators brought sanitary wear into the august house in protest against the high prices and duty imposed on sanitary products.
Most women have expressed how expensive sanitary wear is and it is even worse for those leaving in poor communities.
a�?Enough is not being done to rectify the issue of sanitary wear. I think they should even be given for free considering that women do not use them by choice.
a�?With that in mind I think its high time sanitary wear was treated as a basic need, because we cannot survive without them and it does not help that pads and tampons are expensive and the situation is worse for the poorest of the poor who end up looking for other undesirable alternatives,a�? said Musa Nyathi.
You would find that some women do not have access to traditional sanitary wear and as an alternative to pads and tampons, they have no option but to use rags, toilet paper, newspapers, some even use a�?recycleda�? tampons or pads and disposable nappies and in extreme cases others use cow dung.
This raises concern regarding the experiences of women and girls in terms of health and hygiene as well as dignity and confidence to be active members of a society. Imagine what happens when someone uses newspapers, will the ink not harm her in the long run.
a�?In most rural areas some girls do not attend school during menstruation; these girls are from poor communities where access to sanitary resources is difficult.
a�?For many poverty-stricken families, the cost of sanitary pads is too high, and thus receives less priority when compared to other household needs such as food,a�? said Nobuhle Tshuma.
The resultant absenteeism during menstruation leads to a critical loss of learning time. On average, about four days per month can be lost, which can add up to 36 days of schooling across the school year that a girl should be in school.
Other concerns have been raised with regards to the fact that where sanitary wear is concerned, research and development efforts have been limited to commercial ventures and minimal effort has gone into production and social marketing of low-cost napkins or reusable materials for instance the use of the menstrual cup which women in most European countries have gracefully embraced.
The menstrual cup collects menstrual fluid, instead of absorbing it like a tampon, and is cleanedA� and reused, with the cup able to last as long as 10 years.
Reusable cups have been around since the 1930s and are made of soft, medical grade silicone or rubber and maybe ita��s high time such options were introduced in countries like Zimbabwe. The cup is a sustainable solution in terms of accessibility, cost and waste management.
At least such options will make it possible for women to move away from the traditional approach of sanitary pads and tampons towards a single product that can be used for many years.
The expensive nature of sanitary wear is not the only issue for women in Zimbabwe with regards to that time of the month, adequacy of water for washing and bathing is also an issue.
In some areas water is very scarce or there is no clean running water at all and this affects women especially where hygiene is concerned.
Efforts have, however, been done in terms of helping women living in poor communities, this is cemented by the fact that some civil society organisations have tried to come to the aid of vulnerable women and girls especially in the rural areas in terms of donating sanitary wear but a lot still needs to be done.