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Action Alert: support the "Dignity. Period!" campaign

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!Information on how you can help the Dignity. Period! campaign, coordinated by ACTSA, is provided at the end of this post.

One of our bloggers wrote a little while ago about the Zimbabwean government's crass approach towards the crisis that Zimbabwean women are facing in terms of shortages of sanitary products in the country. This isn't simply a story about shortages of yet another type of product. Shortages of [tag]sanitary ware[/tag] go to the heart of women's rights: it's an issue which raises questions of whether a woman is forced to stay away from work or school; whether she is putting her [tag]health [/tag]at risk by picking up infections or, if she is HIV positive, whether those infections will literally shorten her life span. In short, a lack of affordable hygienic sanitary products translates directly into issues of [tag]women's rights[/tag] as well as women's dignity. The story has been picked up by The Sunday Times (UK) again today. The article is cited in full below:

Celebrities back tampon rebels of Zimbabwe

SHE has been arrested 22 times, tortured so badly that her front teeth were knocked into her nose and had an AK-47 thrust up her vagina until she bled. [tag]Thabitha Khumalo[/tag]’s crime: to campaign against a critical shortage of tampons and [tag]sanitary towels[/tag] in [tag]Zimbabwe[/tag], one of the least talked about and most severe side-effects for women of the country’s economic crisis.

Now her cause has been taken up in Britain by celebrities including the actors Anna Chancellor, Gillian Anderson, Prunella Scales and Jeremy Irons.

Later this month they will launch “[tag]Dignity. Period![/tag]”, a fundraising campaign to buy sanitary products for Zimbabwe’s women. It will start with a night of entertainment at the 20th Century theatre in Notting Hill, west London, hosted by Stephen Fry.

So desperate is the situation that women are being forced to use rolled-up pieces of newspaper. Zimbabwe already has the world’s lowest life expectancy for women — 34 — and Khumalo believes these unhygienic practices could make it drop to as low as 20 because infections will make them more vulnerable to [tag]HIV[/tag]. “It’s a time bomb,” she said. The shortage is forcing schoolgirls to stay at home when they start menstruating.

The crisis began in 1999 when Johnson & Johnson, the healthcare manufacturer, pulled out of the country because of the worsening economic situation. Zimbabwe then had to import products from neighbouring South Africa. But the collapse of the currency and the world’s highest [tag]inflation[/tag], now more than 1,000%, have made the products unaffordable to all but the elite.

In a country where the minimum wage is Z$6m (£17.14) a month, the cost of a box of 20 [tag]tampon[/tag]s is Z$3m. “Who in their right mind is going to spend half their earnings on tampons?” asked Khumalo. “As it is most people can only afford to eat once a day. Women are being forced to choose between their own health and the survival of their family.”

Khumalo, 45, general secretary of the Women’s Advisory Council of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and a mother of two, started her campaign after she saw a woman walking awkwardly on the street: “She told me she was going home from work because she had her period and could no longer afford sanitary protection or cotton wool.”

When an MP raised the issue in parliament, government ministers fell about laughing and dismissed the matter. Khumalo has tried to highlight it through public meetings and distributing scarves printed with demands for affordable sanitary wear. As a result she has been repeatedly arrested and beaten, but refuses to be deterred.

Update: 18 July 2007

Bodyform support the Dignity! Period. CampaignACTSA have been pushing further with the Dignity! Period. Campaign and have secured the support Bodyform, manufacturers of sanitary protection in the UK. Bodyform are committed to supporting the work of ACTSA’s Dignity! Period. campaign and will donate funds to produce ¼ million packs of sanitary towels for Zimbabwean women, as well as continuing to raise awareness of the campaign. Please visit the Bodyform website and use the 'Tell a Friend' feature to spread word of the campaign.

Dignity! Period. wristbandFor a mere £2.50 you can also buy yourselves a Dignity! Period. wristband. What's truly amazing about this is that your money will provide one woman with essential sanitary protection for three months.

The following is a list of information and suggestions on how people around the world can help. If you have more ideas for what people can do to help the campaign then please send us your ideas and we'll add them to the list:

  • Information on the campaign on the ACTSA website
  • Make a secure online donation to the campaign here. Or you can also send cheques payable to ACTSA (with sanitary appeal written on the back). Details on the website.
  • Make a donation to ACTSA via the JustGiving website in the UK here
  • People in the UK can ask their MP to sign the parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) supporting the campaign.
  • Everyone else, please contact your local MP and encourage them to actively support the campaign.
  • Download and distribute the ACTSA Dignity.Period! leaflet. Print out multiple copies and leave them in places where people can pick them up - in the cubicles of women's public toilets are one suggestion.
  • If you are a blogger or have a website, please feel free to use the button Sokwanele has created on your website or blog as well. Using our code will add an image like the one we have in our sidebar, and a link back to this post where we hope to build on the list of ideas here. Details on how to do so below.
  • Think about how people around the world can help and send us your ideas. We'll continue to build this list of suggestions.

Zimbabwean women want Dignity.Period!To use our button and link back to this list of ideas on how everyone can support the Dignity. Period! campaign, please copy the code in the box below and paste it where you would like the button to appear on your website. Please let us know you've done so.

Help spread the word and thank you all for your support!

Links to recommended reading and updates on the campaign

[tags]hygiene, poverty, gender[/tags]


naro% says:

Sokwanele, I had to drop this story on my blog as well. We gotta spread the word on this and so much more.

Submitted by naro% on 8 May 2006 - 8:52am

[...] !! [...]

Submitted by Enough is Enoug... on 8 May 2006 - 4:03pm
sokari says:

Black Looks - In Solidarity with the women of Zimbabwe - Always.

Submitted by sokari on 8 May 2006 - 7:24pm
Black Looks says:

[...] ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) are coordinating a campaign supported by Sokwanele to highlight the health issues related to the lack of accessable sanitary towels and tampons in the country. This isn’t simply a story about shortages of yet another type of product. Shortages of sanitary ware go to the heart of women’s rights: it’s an issue which raises questions of whether a woman is forced to stay away from work or school; whether she is putting her health at risk by picking up infections or, if she is HIV positive, whether those infections will literally shorten her life span. In short, a lack of affordable hygienic sanitary products translates directly into issues of women’s rights as well as women’s dignity. [...]

Submitted by Black Looks on 8 May 2006 - 7:25pm
Kendra says:

Perhaps, a wiser - for the women & for the Earth - option would be looking into reusuable sanitary protection, such as a Keeper or a Diva Cup. For the cost of roughly three months of protection (if I'm reading the converstions correctly) a woman can get sanitary protection that will last for TEN YEARS without risk of infection.

Also - perhaps one of both of these companies might offer to donate supplies to support Dignity.Period.

(I am not affliated with either company, I am just a devoted fan of my Keeper!)

Submitted by Kendra on 8 May 2006 - 11:46pm
Laban says:

Your link is on my blog. Good luck with the campaign - and with your reporting.

Submitted by Laban on 9 May 2006 - 12:10am
adefunke says:

I have linked to you on my blog. I can't believe the government actually asked for duty on the consignment donated by COSATU!!!

Submitted by adefunke on 10 May 2006 - 10:51am
zimbabwe says:

I'v put the Diginity.Period sign on my blog.

Submitted by zimbabwe on 10 May 2006 - 11:38pm
Sam says:

I've taken your button for my blog. Thank you for making people aware about this.

Submitted by Sam on 11 May 2006 - 1:52pm
ndaba says:

there is one great power that this regime wont defeat thats time ,for i know that we will outlive them,us the youths.we have to be patient and persistant,we will achieve our goal
thanks a lot such sites for which they give us hope
we will conquer(together)

Submitted by ndaba on 12 May 2006 - 6:34pm


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