Girls in rural Zimbabwe have resorted to using cow dung as sanitary wear due to rising prices for feminine hygiene products in the country.
Recently, SNV Netherlands, development organization in Zimbabwe conducted a survey that revealed that 72% of girls living in the rural community of Domboshava, 30 kilometers north of the capital Harare, lack access to disposable sanitary products.
For many girls in rural Zimbabwe, poverty has turned their regular monthly cycle into a time of shame and sanitary pads have turned into a luxury that many young women cannot afford.
Sanitary pads now cost an equivalent of US$2 and are out of reach for the majority of the 3 million menstruation girls who live below the poverty datum line.
With the assistance of an older person, the girls take the fresh cow dung, shape it, and let it dry so that it will readily absorb the blood. To prevent itching, the cow dung is wrapped by a numerous pieces of clothing over it.
Girls favor this technique because of the large amount of blood cow patties can absorb. Once it has been saturated, they dispose it secretly by burying it because the Shona culture forbids men from seeing such things.
According to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs, 67 percent of girls miss school during their periods because they lack access to sanitary ware and facilities. The majority of disabled girls quit school altogether.
According to health experts, practices of using cow dung serve as a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and several others that can infect the reproductive system.
Theresa Nkhoma, a community childcare worker for the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare stated that girls often complain of itching and burning in their private parts. Yeast infections, urogenital tract infections, and early cervical cancer indications are also being discovered during hospital examinations due to practices such as cow dung use.
The health professional and other stakeholders have suggested that sewing machines be given to the women in the communities so they can learn to create reusable pads.
Zimbabwe's government has taken steps to improve the problem by eliminating levies on all sanitary goods. However, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, the inflation rate, which is currently over 190% percent, is making the problem of period poverty worse.
In the current economic crisis in the country, families must decide between buying food and feminine hygiene products, with the majority opting for the latter.
This Zimbabwean young woman's experience is typical of the millions of poor women who have turned to desperate measures throughout Africa to regulate their periods.
Sanitary pads continue to be a luxury for many young rural girls who make less than $1 per day and continue to face the weight of Zimbabwe's economic turmoil.