More than half of teenage girls in Zimbabwe do not have access to sanitary wear and use unhygienic alternatives such as leaves, a senior Government official has said.
Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development Deputy Minister Abigail Damasane said this at a ceremony to launch the International Menstruation Hygiene Day in Seke recently.
She said 62 percent of young girls in rural areas use leaves or rags during menstruation, adding that 20 percent of girls miss lessons due to period pains.
"Girl children are failing Grade Seven because sometimes they do not come to school because of menstruation. They spend the whole process at home because they will shy when they spoil their uniforms," she said.
She urged churches and other organisations to establish clubs that assist these girls in making reusable sanitary wear to bring back confidence among the girls.
Deputy Minister Damasane advised the girls to embrace the idea of reusable pads because they can make them by themselves.
"As a community let us work together to make our own pads for our children. Let us use these new products and spread this issue to the whole world because there are no miracles to stop this menstruation," she said.
Reusable pads are washable, affordable, portable and can be changed frequently. The reusable pads have already been introduced to four provinces namely, Masvingo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Midlands.
There are 10 districts with 467 schools that had 49 000 girls that are benefiting from these sanitary towels.
The menstruation hygiene day which was being held for the first time across the world, was organised to boost awareness of women's sanitary needs during menstruation.
Health and reproductive organisations launched the world's first menstrual hygiene day on May 28 to draw attention to the many girls forced to miss school each month because of inadequate toilet or washing facilities and insufficient access to sanitary towels.
Unesco, the UN's educational, scientific and cultural body, estimates that one in 10 girls in Africa will miss school during their period and eventually drop out of school.
Globally, campaigners are promoting menstrual hygiene day with the hashtag #MenstruationMatters to raise awareness of the stigma and practical difficulties many girls face.