#day21 #WinterABC2020 #afrobloggerswinterchallenge
Today is the penultimate day in the winter African blogging challenge.Today we were asked to revamp an old story and bring it to life. I have revamped my post that was initially called Period Poverty needs a truth revolution in Zimbabwe.This is an issue dear to my heart and it is also my strong assertion that Africa needs a truth revolution in respect of period poverty.
Menstrual Hygiene Day was celebrated albeit muted across Africa due to the Corona virus. My assertion is we need to do some serious reckoning about period poverty in Africa. In fact we need to have a paradigm shift as women and girls about how we talk about period poverty. Now is not the time to beat about the bush – Period poverty needs a truth revolution in Africa!
It is really like playing hide and seek. Sometimes we just have to call a spade a spade. We have a spade in Africa called Period Poverty – but we keep on skirting around the issue. We need a truth revolution regarding period poverty!
The nature of the problem is that we keep hiding the real issues around the poverty women and girls endure on the continent in handling this natural phenomenon. There has never been a more opportune time to talk about this deep issue of Period poverty than during this Covid-19 pandemic. However the conversation cannot be buttered-no more nice rosy words.
What truth do we need to be telling each other ? What do our men and boys need to know? What should our policy makers need to hear ? Women are suffering in silence about, and which amenities are needed to handle the monthly circle. Its understandable why women have suffered in silence and why it’s been a taboo to speak about menstrual issues. Its steeped in the patriachial nature of our African societies. As girls and women we are taught to hide this natural phenomenon from a very early age such that by the time it happens we have been trained well enough to hide it from society’s prodding ears and eyes and have perfected the art so well that even when the scale is now so lopsided against us to our own detriment and well-being we keep on hiding our pain and discomfort in shame yet men can easily advocate for the availability of free condoms everywhere so that when there are engulfed by untamed urges they can do so in safety.
Why have the needs of women been put in the back burner for so long? As long as we do not speak out about the cost of santary wear and the amenities needed to make it bearable then we as Africans will remain a disservice to our girls and women.
Our leaders remain engrossed in entrenching themselves in power to such an extent that the issues that women need solved to make menstrual hygiene are only dealt with only on paper in order to satisfy multi-lateral financial institutions willing to enslave our economies further by pandering to the appetites of grown men who only care to create empires for themselves and their immediate kith and kin. Are our leaders so blind and immune to the issues women face to such an extent of turning a blind eye to our plight?
Factors responsible for period poverty in Africa are the same across the continent-whether you visit Zambia , Zimbabwe , Botwsana or Malawi it is all the same. Natural disasters brought by climate change worsen the impacts while still wars and conflict are added dilemmas to the whole scenario. In particular the scourge of drought makes the food security challenges even more pronounced as all family resources are diverted towards meeting basics with the needs of girls and women in particular becoming sidelined.
Lack of Sanition facilities and access to water contributes significantly to period poverty in Africa. Menstruation by its nature needs water in order to maintain good hygiene and also needs a way of disposing the sanitary wear.
Faced with the above issues what do we women actual resort to ? Some use old clothes which need to be able to absorb copius amounts of blood . Some paper, some tissue and others who are lucky can use cotton wool as the cost of pads is way out of reach for most African women and girls. There are some who are lucky and do access sanitary pads but observations show that most of these are young girls who sometimes have parents buy for them but mostly might resort to boyfriends with some not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts but in exchange for sexual favours.
Reusable pads can work but the challenge here with reusable pads is the access to clean water and soap to wash these pads and their lifespan usually runs for a year. It is also difficult to find local supplies of the materials used to make reusable pads otherwise the cost ends up being too high -others have tried to run pad campaigns but this woman issue is a constant monthly challenge-How many pad campaigns can be done?
Policy shifts and budgetary allocations should be more sustainable and not piecemeal actions to appease women and girls with women falling for the carrots so quickly and with short sightedness.
A common problem among African girls and women is what is called ‘Jeko’ which is acute period pain which can last for days on end. Most deal with this problem by taking over the counter medicines that alleviate pain such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. This simple medication can become very out of reach in our extended lockdowns and difficult economic conditions.
Sanitary wear issues are very secondary to most of the bread and better issues our society is currently facing. Our political classes are usually stone deaf to such issues and because people are faced with hunger, period poverty is an after thought both for governments and most civil society. More must be done to lesson the burden for African women and girls and one place to start with is telling each other the truth.