Period poverty is a reality affecting a lot of rural women and girls such that they have resorted to using unhygienic alternatives such as soft bark, newspapers, rags, leaves, tissue paper and cow dung, among other materials because they cannot afford sanitary wear. Girls and women in rural areas are faced with a financial challenge which limits their ability to access sanitary wear. Apart from providing them with sanitary wear, there is a need to device programmes that empower them to earn a living such that there can access sanitary wear. Girls and women are taking part in prostitution and becoming victims of sextortion in a bid to raise money to buy sanitary wear which has resulted in teenage pregnancies and early marriages.
There is need to deconstruct stereotypes and change the mindset surrounding menstruation. Menstrual hygiene management is a taboo topic, menstruating girls and women are excluded out of their day-to-day activities such as cooking, fetching water and religious ceremonies, they are even not allowed to touch food, animals or shake hands of men as it is believed that any living being that gets in contact with a menstruating woman will go barren. Instead of keeping it a secret that girls and women are menstruating, their exclusion from their activities tantamount announces that they are menstruation. 20% of rural primary school girls, that menstruate, do not attend school whilst they are on their menses.
Debra is a partner at a non-profit project called Lady Rose Re-usable Sanitary Pads to provide disadvantaged girls and women especially in rural areas with reusable sanitary wear and also to train them on how to make them. So far, the project has reached two rural districts in Matabeleland and also managed to collaborate with local orphanages in Bulawayo to help young girls with menstrual hygiene management.