Sanitary wear must be made available and affordable, while education about menstruation and stigma around the biological process must continue, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
Amai Mnangagwa said this yesterday during her interaction with 50 children drawn from disadvantaged backgrounds during the commemoration of the Menstrual Hygiene Management Day.
There have been major concerns from young girls and women over the soaring costs of sanitary wear.
Amai Mnangagwa, through her Angel of Hope Foundation, donated reusable menstrual kits to the disadvantaged women.
The reusable menstrual kits are being manufactured by Angel of Hope Foundation. Amai Mnangagwa's goal has been to promote menstrual hygiene management.
The First Lady said it was saddening to note that while pregnancy was a celebratory topic, menstruation was considered as a dark phase which was supposed to be dealt with secretly.
"Talking about menstruation, it is considered taboo and yet it is the biological indicator that pregnancy has not occurred," she said.
"This silence contributes to the ignorance and illiteracy on menstrual hygiene management.
"Regressive socio-cultural norms pertaining menstruation are responsible for the silence around the issue of menstruation and this results in the use of unhygienic products to manage periods instead of much safer products."
The First Lady noted that the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Day was being marked in the middle of the Covid-19 global pandemic, adding that menstruation was every woman's issue and it was important to take time to reflect on the process which is part of reproductive health for women and girls.
"The theme for this year's commemoration is 'It's time for action. Indeed it is a time for all of us to take action and address the challenges that women and girls face in relation to menstrual hygiene management, especially as we also look at the challenges that we are currently facing due to the Covid-19 global lock down," she said.
"Menstrual hygiene management is not a girls and women's issue alone, but it is a matter that concerns all of us as communities and failure to manage menstrual hygiene may as well impact on the development of communities and the nation at large."
The First Lady said it was time to break the silence, raise awareness and change negative social norms around menstrual hygiene management and make concrete commitments at local and national levels.
"We should note that a little negligence in menstrual hygiene management can cause grievous bodily harm, and may also act as an instrument for the spread of infection to others," she said.
While Menstrual Hygiene Day is recognised each year on 28 May, the First Lady said it should not only be limited to this day.
"We must ensure that education about menstruation and the removal of the stigma around this biological process continues to occur on a daily basis and efforts are enhanced in making sanitary wear affordable to both women and girls," she said.
Earlier on, Amai Mnangagwa had taken time to educate the children about Covid-19 where she said they must protect themselves, their families and the community from the killer pandemic.
She urged them to treasure and focus on education, saying it was the pathway to success.
The First Lady gave the children's guardians an assortment of foodstuffs that included tea, maize-meal, rice, sugar, laundry soap and cooking oil.
The girls thanked the First Lady for the kind gesture.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Sydney Makarawo said menstrual hygiene management was of key concern to his ministry and the commemoration of the day was an opportunity for the nation to reflect on the biological needs of women and girls.
"Our Government is committed to implementing rights enshrined in Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment number 19) which provides a strong framework for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and men, girls and boys," he said.
"Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is therefore a critical aspect of the rights of women and girls and demands our urgent attention."