Catholic activist ‘sad and angry’ as girls in Zimbabwe resort to cow dung for sanitary napkins

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Worrying reports from cash-strapped Zimbabwe say girls and women are resorting to cow dung as sanitary pads as inflation “hits feminine hygiene products”. Africanews the dish.

It’s a report that the head of programs for Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe, Richard Savo, says is hard-hitting.


“As someone with a young daughter and teenage family members, it makes me sad and angry,” Savo said. Node.

Zimbabwe has struggled economically, but the war in Ukraine has pushed inflation up to over 130%.

Savo says women and girls pay a disproportionate price. In an interview with Nodehe looked at the tough economic times for ordinary Zimbabweans, the dangers they have caused to feminine hygiene, and what CRS has done to provide respite to desperate people.

Here are excerpts from that conversation.

Node: What comes to mind when you receive this kind of news?

soap: As someone with a young daughter and teenage family members, this makes me sad and angry. As someone working in the nonprofit sector, this underscores the importance of programs specifically designed to support adolescent girls and young women in situations like this.

For example, over the past five years, the USAID-funded Pathways project has helped vulnerable girls access sanitary pads. We have seen a marked reduction in levels of school absenteeism and a drop in the stigma associated with lack of access to appropriate feminine hygiene products.

Beyond immediate access to feminine hygiene products, it is also essential to tailor programs to address economic vulnerability and poverty, which are the root causes of the challenges these young girls face. By providing solutions that empower adolescent girls and young women and give their caregivers and parents a way to earn a living, we can improve household economic outcomes. This way they will have the purchasing power to access these basic necessities.

What is the danger for these girls who use cow dung as sanitary napkins?

Girls and women should, as a basic right, have access to hygiene items like sanitary napkins to manage their monthly cycle. This will protect their dignity and ability to function in society free from stigma, trauma, health and societal risk.

Adolescent girls and women are exposed to many multifaceted dangers when they do not have access to feminine hygiene products. Some of these hazards include threats to physical health and well-being. Lack of access to hygiene products leads adolescent girls and women to use unhygienic materials, which can lead to urinary tract infections and other infections.

There is also a risk of social stigma and interruptions in school attendance. For the duration of their period each month, some girls cannot go to school. This affects their performance in school and their chances of succeeding academically. This will consequently affect their long-term aspirations and limit their opportunities for career progression or employment options, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Lack of access to feminine hygiene products turns the monthly cycle, which should be a normal process of human development, into an unpleasant and traumatic experience for young women. It can also have long term effects on the girl child in terms of dignity, self-esteem and life confidence.

This poor hygiene is obviously the result of atrocious poverty. I understand that purchasing power in Zimbabwe has dropped drastically as inflation peaks at 130% since war broke out between Russia and Ukraine. What does this mean for ordinary people in terms of coping ability?

Women and children are often the first groups to feel the effects of economic downturns. This is of particular concern since these same groups are also often the most vulnerable in society. Families have to make tough choices to meet their basic food needs and other essentials. Unfortunately, the burden of menstrual hygiene falls primarily on women who cannot afford this necessity.

What we see in the communities where we work is that people’s lives are affected in many ways. Families experience limits to their ability to earn money, limiting their access to things like food, education and health care. In addition to poor rains in parts of Zimbabwe, food is more expensive in the markets, so families are spending a large percentage of their limited income on food. This leaves a minimum of funds to meet health, emergency and other family needs. It is an untenable situation.

Development partners can help by providing opportunities for economic growth, such as entrepreneurship training, or by supporting start-ups.

A recent CRS report notes that world hunger has soared largely because of the war in Ukraine. He cites four African countries as countries of particular concern: Madagascar, Nigeria, South Sudan and Sudan. What should African countries do to cushion the effects of the crisis and avoid similar stress should similar circumstances arise in the future?

It is essential that governments put in place pro-poor policies. Including measures that support vulnerable people and ensure they can continue to receive services. It is also crucial to put in place strong social protection systems so that States prioritize the care of their citizens. It is vital that state actors and non-state actors such as development partners work together.

The focus should be on providing communities and households with the skills, tools and resources they need to be self-reliant, self-reliant and bounce back from difficult times.

In the face of mounting hardship across the continent, what has CRS done or plans to do to provide respite to desperate people?

African countries are grappling with a multiplicity of shocks. These shocks include the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of lockdowns and supply chain issues on economies, the worst drought we have seen in 40 years in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and the impact of the war in Ukraine over imports of wheat and corn.

Catholic Relief Services is focused on working with governments and our faith partners to provide families and communities with support on multiple fronts. On the one hand, providing food aid and financial support to families and communities in places like Ethiopia and Kenya to reduce the impact of rising food prices. In the longer term, CRS is increasing its investments in agricultural development programs that aim to provide farmers with the tools and skills they need to increase productivity in climate-affected areas.

In addition, CRS implements initiatives focused on strengthening households, improving family livelihoods, and improving health to support people and their landscapes so families can live in dignity and recover. shocks.

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