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]â€™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 countryâ€™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 â€œ[tag]Dignity. Period![/tag]â€, a fundraising campaign to buy sanitary products for Zimbabweâ€™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 worldâ€™s lowest life expectancy for women â€” 34 â€” 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]. â€œItâ€™s a time bomb,â€ 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 worldâ€™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 (Â£17.14) a month, the cost of a box of 20 [tag]tampon[/tag]s is Z$3m. â€œWho in their right mind is going to spend half their earnings on tampons?â€ asked Khumalo. â€œAs 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.â€
Khumalo, 45, general secretary of the Womenâ€™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: â€œShe told me she was going home from work because she had her period and could no longer afford sanitary protection or cotton wool.â€
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
ACTSA 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 ACTSAâ€™s Dignity! Period. campaign and will donate funds to produce Â¼ 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.
For a mere Â£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:
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]