Menstrual Hygiene in Urban Areas
Using the case study of Zimbabwe, guest blogger Lisa Nyamadzawo examines menstrual hygiene in urban areas, a dilemma common in the developing world.
Up to 52% of the global female population is of reproductive age. The majority of them menstruate every month. In Zimbabwe, much effort by the government in partnership with different civil society organisations has been done to provide safe, clean and affordable sanitary wear for women.
However, this gesture, though meaningful, has not been enough. Proper menstrual hygiene in our urban areas is non-existent, and this has posed to be a great challenge for today’s women.
Disposable sanitary pads are the most common form of personal menstrual sanitation in Zimbabwe. However, women do not have a place to dispose of their sanitary waste, whether in public toilets or in their homes. Very few privatised methods have been adopted, but they are expensive and out of reach to the general public. For example, private institutions or privately-owned premises hire the services of sanitary disposal companies such as Tasha’s Sanitary Disposal Services or NemChem. These services are expensive for an ordinary or public place.
That is why, in some cases, women have to stuff their used pads in unhygienic places – they do not have another option. Some also bury the waste, affecting the drainage of the area through seepage. In a single-unit domestic setup, women simply dispose of their sanitary waste in the same bins used for all other kinds of waste. Considering the inconsistent collection of garbage, this is definitely not the best option.
It is evident in this regard that cities have not been inclusive and sensitive to the needs of women. The role of local authorities and civil society should be seen through the development of calculated waste management strategies that not only deal with paper, plastic and biodegradable products, but also with sanitary waste management strategies.
If local authorities could provide sanitary waste bins in all public toilets in cities, this would go a long way towards ensuring sustainable public health. Laws must be enacted that state that every school or public institution must provide sanitary waste bins in all toilets, too, with frequent checks to ensure that the law is followed.
Another option is localised incineration, which means that a woman would not be dependant on someone to collect their waste but rather could handle it in her own personal capacity. However, in this case, environmental considerations must be examined.
Young girls and women should also be taught good menstrual hygiene and how to dispose of their menstrual waste so that it does not affect their day-to-day activities and the environment. Menstruation is a normal period for every woman, and it must not be a complicated time for women in today’s cities. Inclusive cities are the way to go, and this means taking into consideration the needs of women.
Article submitted by Lisa Nyamadzawo, 22, a social innovator who is getting a Bachelor’s in Rural and Urban Planning and holds an executive certificate in Project Management at the University of Zimbabwe. Her interests are socioeconomic development, governance, public policy, and the integration of youth, women and girls in spatial developmental issues. Follow her on Twitter @LisaNyamadzawo. Read her other blog Urban Planning in Developing Countries.
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