IN an effort to promote menstrual hygiene among women and young girls from poor resource settings, a local non-governmental organisation is imparting skills in rural communities to make their own sanitary pads.
Some of the young girls interviewed confessed to have used newspapers, rags and tree barks as substitutes for pads before they were taught to make their own as they were unable to buy sanitary wear every month.
Basement Chisango, a Form 4 student, at Kotwa Secondary School in Mudzi said it was hard for them to buy sanitary pads every month since their parents had no money.
"Some of the girls at this school went to the extent of using newspapers and leaves during menstrual periods because they cannot afford US$1 every month," said Basement.
She said some girls of her age were forced to enter into relationships with local herdboys to get the US$1 to buy sanitary wear as they could not stand the embarrassment of using newspapers.
Basement commended the move by the Integrated Sustainable Livelihoods (ISL) -- an NGO teaching them how to make low-cost sanitary pads.
She said the new method is more hygienic and cheap compared to using disposable pads and the girls where benefiting from this project.
"We are benefiting a lot from this programme, we can now make our own pads without asking our parents for money.
"We can also use the skills to make more pads for re-sale to other girls and women in our community," she said.
In line with this project ISL last week donated nine sewing machines and material to make the sanitary pads to Kotwa Secondary School.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, ISL director Mr Lifa Methie said the sanitary pads are reusable and can be used for up to five years.
He said one can have at least five pads, which she can use and wash with detergent before using it again.
"ISL assessment shows that about 70 percent of the girls in Forms 1 and 2 fail to attend school during their monthly periods because they do not use proper sanitary ware. School attendance registers show that girls are absent at least for four days every month," Mr Methie said.
Mr Methie urged Government to approve a standard re-usable pad.
"ISL will provide training in rural schools for the girl child to be able to make their own pads as a safe and hygienic alternative for those who face the challenge of buying sanitary wear," he said.
Mudzi district education officer Mr Godfrey Chimbwanda appreciated ISL's assistance to the girl child.
He said this project will encourage good hygiene in the community since sanitary pads will not be disposed everywhere and it will also maintain the dignity of a woman.
"I want to thank everyone involved in this project for your good heart, don't do it for us only but also do it for others," he said.
According to ISL, more than one in 10 school-age girls skip school when menstruating or drop out entirely.
"An average pack of sanitary pads costs US$2, meaning that a family with four girls would spend US$8 a month on feminine hygiene products, which, for many poor households, is unfeasible," said Mr Methie.
He said according to research conducted in conjunction with United Nations Women, women preferred re-usable pads to the more expensive alternatives.