Imagine not having access to a clean toilet, water, or sanitary ware and having to resort to using plants, rags, or even cow dung while on your period. Imagine experiencing the discomfort of using plants on top of the pain of menstrual cramps. This is the reality for many girls in rural Zimbabwe who regularly find themselves in this situation. In order to help alleviate this problem, Lucinda Walker and Martha Holman have decided to raise money by climbing the Abergavenny 3 Peaks on the 25th of June 2022. We aim to raise £2,500 for this Menstrual Health and Feminine Hygiene (MHFH) project. We will employ mothers of disabled children at Chinamhora community centre to sew over 2,000 sustainable menstrual products made with organic cotton. Together with local schools, we will identify appropriate pupils who will benefit from this scheme. Teenage girls not in school will be notified and will also receive the pads. Workshops will be organised at Chinamhora community center to educate the public about menstruation.
Why is this such a big problem in rural Zimbabwe?
Schoolgirls in rural Zimbabwe experience their first periods in extreme environments where there are no toilet facilities, sanitary products and clean water. Cultural taboos and secrecy about menstrual blood has created further challenges for these girls leaving them feeling confused, scared and embarrassed because they are unable to discuss the change happening in their bodies. As a result, most girls resort to isolation, thereby avoiding contact with the public or going to school.
Meetings with the local community in Chinamhora village during our last visit to Zimbabwe in August 2021 highlighted MHFH as a huge problem in rural Zimbabwe for school girls because they are unable to maintain hygiene and privacy while on their period. When toilets are available they are often unclean, limited and at a distance from the water supply. Therefore, it is impossible for girls to privately wash blood off their hands and skirts when in school. Many girls lack access to sanitary wear and are forced to use rags, cloth, tissues, plants and cow dung. This is not only uncomfortable for them but it also puts them at risk of infections and health problems.
How are we going to help?
Many girls do not use sanitary wear because they can't afford it. Love Zimbabwe believes that girls have the right to sustainable sanitary wear that is discrete, absorbent and comfortable. We believe that girls should not face barriers to actively participate in daily activities because of a natural bodily function. We will provide education about periods aiming to reduce some of the secrecy and shame surrounding the community. We will also teach girls about menstrual hygiene and how to take care of themselves. This approach will enable girls to feel more comfortable and to be in charge of their bodies while on their period.
Martha (Founder and Trustee of Love Zimbabwe) and Lucinda (Trustee of Love Zimbabwe) have been working together on various successful projects in Chinamhora Village for the last 6 years. Projects such as building the library, construction of organic keyhole gardens, and Covid-19 initiatives. These projects were aimed at overcoming adversity and improving the quality of life for the people of Chinamhora village.
In August 2021, Martha was involved with managing a British Council funded project, ‘Connecting classrooms through global learning’ when she visited 5 schools in Chinamhora village. She noticed a high number of girl absences, especially in grade 6 and 7. A follow-up meeting with female teachers highlighted that most girls at this stage stayed home during their menstrual cycle. Upon her return to the UK, Martha raised the issue to Love Zimbabwe Trustees and it was decided that sanitation and feminine hygiene should be prioritised.
Therefore, Martha and Lucinda decided to take on the challenge of the Abergavenny 3 Peaks in response to the need. This will entail climbing three mountains Blorenge (561m), Sugarloaf ( 596m) and The Skirrid (486m) and walking 20 miles in one day.
Lucinda and Martha have a passion for gender equality and helping women and girls in Zimbabwe to live sustainable and healthy livelihoods. They both believe that education is vital and aim to help girls stay in school with this project.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our page. We greatly appreciate all donations and we are excited to start working on this project in August 2022. Below are a few pictures from Martha and Lucinda’s training for the 3 peaks!
From all of us at Love Zimbabwe charity.