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Monday, January 30, 2023

How Period Poverty Pushes Impoverished Zimbabwe Girls To Use Cow Dung As Sanitary Pads  

According to UNICEF, globally, millions of girls and women still lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM)

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Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga is a graduate of Mass Communication and aspiring investigative journalist.


AFRICA. Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s economic crisis and high inflation rate have pushed about 72% of the rural girls in Domboshava, the capital of Harare, into the use of cow dung as a sanitary wear. 

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Africanews reported that the situation is due to the high inflation rate that hit female hygiene products in the country. 

A physically challenged 19-year-old Constance Dimingo and four of her sisters who depend on their visually impaired grandmother for their menstrual pads use cow dung instead of sanitary pads. 

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Dimingo narrated that, since the death of her mother, more than a year ago, she could not afford to use a sanitary pad. 

Now, I have to use anything I can find; cow dung, leaves, newspapers and clothes, to stop the blood from leaking. I wish my mother was still alive to buy me pads and medication for my menstrual pain, Dimingo cried out. 

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SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in Zimbabwe study has it that 72% of girls in the rural town of Domboshava, 30 kilometres north of the capital Harare, do not have access to commercial sanitary wear.

Sanitary pads which cost about US$2, (N1,200) in Harare can not be afforded by over three million menstruating girls who are thinking of what to eat that are living below the poverty line. 

Preparing cow dung as an alternative for sanitary pad 

Narrating her ordeal, Vhene Gumedhe the grandmother of six, said that her family, who is living on less than a dollar per day, has no option than to let her grandchildren resolve into the use of other means to stop their menstrual period. 

My family and many other families in Zimbabwe have to choose between purchasing feminine hygiene products and buying food, which most of us go for later to bear the country’s economic brunt.   

I take the dung, mould it and leave it to dry so that it easily absorbs the blood. The girls do not put the cow pattie directly on the skin. I wrap many clothes over it to avoid itching when placed on the underwear. Then I show them how to close their private parts to block the bleeding, Gumedhe has said. 

Gumedhe also added that her ground children have heavy flows with cycles that typically last six days. We prefer this method because cow patties soak up a lot of blood. Once soaked, we dispose of it privately by burying it on the ground. 

According to UNICEF, globally, millions of girls and women still lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities, particularly in public places such as schools, workplaces or health centres, has posed a major obstacle to women and girls. Also unavailability of means to adequate means of sanitary pads disposal and water to wash hands, means that women and girls face challenges in maintaining their menstrual hygiene in a private, safe and dignified manner.

Health experts have also revealed that the use of cow dung is a breeding ground for Salmonella, E. Coli and several bacteria because of reproductive health infections.

Girls will always experience itching and burning sensations in the vagina. Which leads to yeast infections, urogenital tract infections and early signs of cervical cancer because of insertion in the vaginal tract, experts have said.

Efforts by the Zimbabwe government to ease the situation through abolition of taxes on all sanitary products have been unrealistic. Priod poverty is being exacerbated by the country’s high inflation standing at over 191.6%, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

ALSO READ: Period Poverty: Female Students Call On Nigerian Government To Make Sanitary Pads Free


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