In celebrating the day of an African child this year, we went to the Ngozi Mine slums where we screened two of our short films (Amacala 1 & 2), we spent the day with children living in that area and got to converse with them. The most disheartening fact is that they do not have clean water and sanitation which is detrimental to their health. This year’s theme is “Eliminating harmful practices against children, the children in key populations should not be left behind”.
Sustainable Development Goal 6 not being met in that area means that we have more children being vulnerable to various diseases which will then limit their growth. While some go to school, some are still looking for sponsors. Just as education is an empowerment tool, it should be of paramount importance to key populations because they are the most vulnerable.
Sexual and reproductive health services that include dissemination of information are a must because half of the teenagers there are already sexually active and even though mobile clinics frequent visit the community, there is still need for buttressing of information through different media. One of the girls said that they get bullied by their sexual partners and they are afraid of saying no to sex or even negotiate for safe sex because they will be beaten to a pulp. Another girl said the situation at their homes pushes them to indulge in sexual activity at a young age because they will be trying to fend for their families. A third girl said that they don't take pre and post prophylaxis pills because they don’t want to be judged. The three views show that there is need for advocacy and SRHR services because we cannot just watch and do nothing while their physical and mental health deteriorates. It is even more worrying when the parents in that area do not converse with their children regarding these issues.
The young women and girls in this community are victims of circumstance and socialisation and need a change of mindset. The parents are not to be blamed but they ought to be taught on how to approach their children and vice versa because in as much as different humanitarian groups can share information and make donations the children spend most of their time with parents so it becomes a problem if they are not empowered. The issue of child marriage, which I prefer to term “statutory rape” is rampant in that area. This is one of the harmful practices we are trying our best to fight. This puts the lives of children in that area at halt as they don't get to pursue their dreams of bettering their lives and breaking the shackles of poverty. They are impoverished even more because without education, the future is blurry including that of their children. Child labour continues to be a problem, instead of spending time at school, most of them will be working trying to help out at home.
As Amplifying Girls Voices, our help alone is not enough but if we could join hands, then we can help unleash their potential and make them leap to greater heights and the fight against harmful practices will be stronger than ever. Thabo Mbeki once said, “None dare challenge me when I say I am an African”, Happy international day of the African child
Period poverty is a term that only started popping up in these last few years, however, it has played a vital part in the oppression of girls and women for many years but was just never paid attention to due to the stigma that exists around the topic of menstruation as well as internalized misogyny.
The term period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. In as much as the main cause of period poverty is financial instability there is a lot more that contributes to it such as the stigma I mentioned above as well as periods being seen as too much of a taboo to speak about in communities making it harder for those who don’t have the access to sanitary products to seek help
Menstruation has been painted out as unclean and embarrassing all around the world. Unbelievable myths were drawn up to control women under the guise of their menstrual cycle in both traditional, cultural and religious settings. These myths created surrounding menstruation have evidently hindered women and girls from living their normal lives and taking part in numerous activities during their cycle due to the fact that they are seen as impure during this time.
It is estimated that 60% of girls and women are affected by period poverty in Zimbabwe’s rural communities. Girls miss a substantial number of days of school a year which automatically puts them behind their male counterparts. Most of these girls use the most unhygienic alternatives such as using cloth, leaves and cow dung. These alternatives leave the young ladies vulnerable to infections and often their local clinics don’t have the capacity to treat these.
The girl child has had to fight due to the stigmatized biological function that she has no power over. UNESCO states that 1 in 10 girls in Southern Africa will miss school during their period due to lack of sanitary products and eventually drop out, immediately putting young women at a disadvantage and hindering them from getting an education to better their life which is perpetuating a cycle of women depending on men. This as well contributing to the higher numbers of men that hold senior positions in the work place compared to women.
The effects of period poverty are carried out even into the work setting of young women’s lives. In an article senior reporter Evidence Chenjerai wrote “ARE MYTHS ABOUT MENSURATION PUSHING SOME WOMEN OUT OF ZIMBABWE’S MINING INDUSTRY” for the Global press journal, brought to light some of the myths about women’s periods that are being used to oppress women in the work place. The article was very shocking seeing as a certain woman’s very own workers did not want her to visit while they were working as they claimed that If she came while she was on her period the gold they were mining would disappear. It is also widely believed that menstrual blood is used in witchcraft
Change is possible if we work together as a community to eradicate the stigma that lurks around the topic of menstruation. We can achieve this by having open conversations including every member of the society that will enable better understanding when it comes to the topic of periods. Having the boy child understand, from an early age, that periods are normal and not embarrassing at all. These talks aimed at educating the society will fix the social side of period poverty however the finical side needs more work. The prices of pads are through the sky in shops seeing as most brands are imported. I believe it’s time as a country that we become self-sufficient in the production of pads in order to make them affordable
“While a woman sheds the blood of life each moon at menstruation, men can only shed the blood of death through warfare” - KATHA POLLIT
To all the young ladies reading this article there’s nothing unclean or embarrassing about your cycle and never let the community convince you otherwise. Embrace your biological make up.
In celebration of the International Menstrual Health Day, we say let’s create a world where no woman or girl is held back because they menstruate by 2030