For too many women and girls in Zimbabwe, commercial sanitary wear is a ‘rare luxury’ and they are pushed to desperate measures during menstruation. Schoolgirls in many rural areas and other parts of the country rely on torn strips of cloth, old newspapers, weeds and leaves in place of pads which is infectious to their reproductive organs.
Seated in her small neatly packed home office along Falls Close in Waterfalls, Chipo Chikomo describes how she came up with a solution to solve the sanitary wear crisis for women and young girls in Zimbabwe.
“I discovered that there were few or no organisation that were tackling issues to do with menstruation in Zimbabwe so I felt that Zimbabweans must come up with solutions and I got an opportunity to meet Days for Girls International who has the same vision of ending period poverty as well and that was the beginning of our partnership,” she said in a very welcoming note.
Chipo Chikomo founded Nhanga Trust in 2016 whose main vision is to empower undeserved women to make reusable menstruation kits. In the same vein, Chipo partnered with Days for Girls International to help under privileged girls with a reliable source of sanitary wear.
Through this partnership, Chipo Chikomo has managed to supply washable sanitary wear and menstrual cups around Zimbabwe to places like schools and charity organisations.
Telling her menstruation tales to Nhanga Trust, Faith Bhunu confirmed that using washable pads has changed her menstruation period experiences for better.
“I am so impressed, your washable sanitary pads are incredible. The fit is great and so much more comfortable than disposable pads. I don’t miss disposable pads at all! Washing is a breeze. They dry so quickly so I iron and pack in one day. Love that its portable and I can change the inners as frequently as I like. No damp feeling like the pads. Most of all I save money, ” she said.
To ensure her nationwide reach, Chipo has partnered with charity organisations around Zimbabwe in the distribution of washable sanitary wear. She has partnered with Arthur Matongo’s Waruka Trust to help the most vulnerable girls in Murewa West Constituency.
“I have taken an initiation to identify the most vulnerable girls in Murewa West Constituency who were desperately in need and I selected them, I then handed over to Chipo Chikomo who supported them with sanitary washable pads,” Arthur Matongo said.
Chipo also partnered with Diasies Foundation that was founded by Takudzwa Chitima on a number of washable pads donation projects.
According to Takudzwa Chitima, Chipo’s work and impact in society cannot be ignored for it speaks for itself and is really inspiring.
“Chipo and I have partnered on recent projects, we donated 50 menstrual kits to girls at Mbare High School. She has also provided menstrual cups to our organization and to date 50 cups has been given to women at Chikurubi Female Prison,” Chitima said.
“When we receive funds from other donors, we procure washable pads from Days for Girls. So far the feedback from our beneficiaries has been amazing. The pads are comfortable, easy to wash, causes no irritation and most importantly adolescent girls no longer miss school due to menstruation,” she added.
“Washable menstrual pads has helped a number of beneficiaries from our trust in great ways as it covered the gap of lack of sanitary pads to many vulnerable girls, brought self-confidence and alleviating the financial burden for young girls and women,” Chitima added.
A form 2 student from Mbare High School Trish Manyongavona confirmed that she has enjoyed using the washable pads and likes that they are portable, so she can take them to school easily.
“After the donation, I stopped buying disposable pads completely, which has saved her money. My only complaint is that the pads make it hard to wear tight clothing because they outline of the pad shows,” she said.
Dr Faith Nyamukapa who directs Kinder Care Zimbabwe and also sits in many non-governmental organisations boards has commented that washable pads are good for the genital health of women and girls because using them is less infectious.
Chipo has been awarded for her work through many awards and among them is the award of environmental management award where she got rewarded for her efforts in making the environment clean.
Her work benefits the environment to a greater extent, as confirmed by environmentalist Kudzai Mhambure who says that using washable pads cuts the amount of waste thereby reducing land pollution challenges.
“Using disposable pads cause a solid waste management problem as they are made up from materials that are non-bio degradable. The plastics that are used during the production process stay in the environment for a very long time. Used pad contain a bio hazardous waste which makes it easier for the spread of infections,” he said.
Mhambure added that for the benefit of the environment using washable pads is ideal as they require little to no plastic during their production.
To encourage businesses like Chipo Chikomo’s in Zimbabwe, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the governments are urged to avail funds and resources to put up a centre that can equip young girls and women with skills to make the reusable pads for the benefit of the community as advocated by Dr Nyamukapa.
Dr Nyamukapa believes that the creation of a bank is a necessity for further improvement of the sanitary crisis in Zimbabwe. She believes that a sanitary pad support fund is necessary and pleaded for the corporation on NGOs in creating the fund.
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