Free sanitary wear for girls should be accompanied by extensive education- Kariba MP

By Nhau Mangirazi

KARIBA– Hon Christine Nyere has welcomed the latest bid by Finance Minister Prof Mthuli Ncube to pacify the health challenges confronting mostly rural girls during monthly periods by dishing free sanitary wear.

Majority of rural based girls at puberty stage use cow dung, old clothes and leaves while others were being forced to abandon schools at least for a week due to unavailability of water at most schools in outlying rural areas in Zimbabwe remotest parts.

In Kariba rural girls around Chiefs Mola, Msampakaruma, Negande among others have not been spared by the health hazard they undergo.

A child rights activist Rudo Kanyemba said the sanitary wear issue works against girls due to economic challenges hence failure to get their basic needs.

Kanyemba explained, ‘The sanitary wear is a complex issue even in urban towns where biggest challenge is that not every parent can afford buying sanitary wear for a girl child where a monthly supply that may cost equivalent of family relish for a day that may see girls suffering in silence as family may decide not to sleep on empty stomach for girl child need such as sanitary wear,’

However, in a telephone interview, Hon Nyere (Proportional Representative for Kariba) said Minister Ncube’s latest move was welcome besides debating that it will go through in parliament.

‘It is a noble idea that as women policymakers have been calling for the Government to seriously consider free sanitary wear as it affects every household whether it is your mother, sister, aunt and any woman or girl who undergoes the natural call that cannot be avoided if you are normal. We are happy that at least women and girls needs have been taken heed of by one of the senior cabinet ministers who dictates financial functions of every ministry,’ she said.

Hon Nyere explained that giving free sanitary wear to mostly rural girls was welcome but needs advocacy at grassroots level.

‘From my personal experience, for majority of mostly Kariba rural girls have never seen what modern sanitary wear or monthly pads are and we need to educate them so that they accept the new initiative by the Government. It may face resistance as it is a new facility for them but as policymakers both females and males at local councils and Members of Parliament we need to preach the word to our rural folk so that Government move is not in vain,’

Finance minister Prof Ncube suggested during his 2020 budget presentation last week that primary and secondary school girls will be getting free sanitary wear in January next year.

He availed $200 million for the upcoming provision catering for those from Grade Four up to Form Six.

Prof Ncube said, ‘This budget responds comprehensively to the plight of the girl-child in enhancing their dignity. In anticipation of the finalization of the Education Act, the budget is required to have a provision for the supply of sanitary wear for female learners,”

He further explained that based on equity consideration, the proposal is to begin with rural primary and secondary learners from Grade 4 to Upper Sixth form and a provision of $200 million under the budget

Prof Ncube said, ‘The move is meant to enhance the dignity of the girl-child following widespread concerns that some of the girls were resorting to using unhygienic means during their monthly cycle.

“Due to unaffordable sanitary wear, a majority of vulnerable women and girls had resorted to use of unhygienic materials that expose them to health-related problems,” added the minister.

He also said Government would exempt from duty imports of sanitary wear by a further 12 months, with effect from January 1, 2020.