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DIGNITY Period for Zimbabwean women
Taurai Maduna,
April 28, 2006

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Shingirirai Rimayi, ZCTU North Eastern Region Treasurer holds one of the pads donated to Zimbabwe
Shingirirai Rimayi, ZCTU North Eastern Region Treasurer holds one of the pads donated to Zimbabwe

The harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe has seen Zimbabwean women resort to using newspapers and old pieces of cloth as sanitary towels. Their plight reached the South African based Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) who, in solidarity with their Zimbabwean counterparts, launched the "DIGNITY Period" campaign.

According to ACTSA the campaign captured the hearts of people in both the United Kingdom and southern Africa and donations of sanitary towels poured in. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) recently received a consignment of 19 tons of sanitary towels. However the ZCTU move to dignify women incurred a customs duty charge from the Government of Zimbabwe of approximately ZWD$1.7 billion.

Speaking at a press conference in Harare, Lovemore Matombo, ZCTU president, said the delivery of the sanitary towels had initially been blocked on what the ZCTU believes to be political grounds. listen to audio file

Members of the ZCTU hold some of the sanitary towels
Members of the ZCTU hold some of the sanitary towels

"As the economic crisis deepens, basic goods like sanitary products are becoming a luxury item only available to the rich," Mr Matombo said. The sanitary towels will be distributed to women in both urban and rural areas through the ZCTU structures, which include the Womenís Advisory Council; Regional Womenís Advisory Council as well as women structures of affiliate unions.

Commenting on the statement made by Opa Muchinguri, Minister of Womenís Affairs, Gender and Community Development, that Zimbabwe had enough sanitary towels, Mr Matombo said he was surprised that the minister made such comments. "She is getting a lot of money and really the lady should know there are many Zimbabwean women who cannot afford this product." He added that the minister was out of touch with the situation on the ground. "Those who are sitting pretty up there donít know what is going on down here." listen to audio file

Boxes of sanitary towels that ZCTU will be distributing in Zimbabwe

Shylet Guta, Chairperson of the ZCTU Womenís Advisory Council said the sanitary towels would go a long way in assisting impoverished women who canít afford to purchase these products in the shops. She added that women in rural areas such as Chipinge are using leaves and the bark from trees for protection. listen to audio file

According to IRIN News, a packet of 10 sanitary pads costs US$10 in Zimbabwe where the average salary for those fortunate to be employed ranges from $50 to $100 a month. The news agency further reports that the imposition of duties had stalled an earlier initiative by Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) called "Dignify a Sister". Jenni Williams, WOZA's national coordinator told IRIN that they had struggled to raise funds for the customs duty "which really defeated the purpose of our objective."

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