Penniless girls on periods forced to use cow poo and newspapers to stop blood

Women in Zimbabwe have confessed to using newspapers and cow poo to stop blood from leaking when they're on their periods.

Inflation has made feminine hygiene products unaffordable for many, who now have to get creative when mother nature pays a visit.

Some women, like 19-year-old Constance Dimingo, haven't used a period pad in months.

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"I last wore a pad before my mother died last year," she said.

"Now, I have to use anything I can find, cow dung, leaves, newspapers and clothes, to stop the blood from leaking," she continued. "I wish my mother was still alive to buy me pads and medication for my menstrual pain."

Constance isn't alone – nearly three-quarters of girls in her rural town of Domboshava don't have access to sanitary products, according to a study.

Feminine hygiene products including pads have become too expensive for many of the 3,000,000 menstruating women who live below the poverty line.

Constance, her epileptic sister and three other girls are completely reliant on their visually impaired grandmother, Vhene Gumedhe, to manage their menstrual hygiene – which she does by moulding cow dung into pattie shapes to absorb the blood.

"I take the dung, mould it and leave it to dry so that it easily absorbs the blood," Vhene explains.

"The girls do not put the cow pattie directly on the skin, I wrap many clothes over it to avoid itching when placed on the underwear. Then I show them how to close their private parts to block the bleeding.

"The girls have heavy flows with cycles that typically last six days. We prefer this method because cow patties soak up a lot of blood. Once soaked, we dispose of it privately by burying it in the ground."

Many people in the UK are able to take sanitary products for granted – but for Vhene and the five girls who depend on her, they are totally inaccessible.

"Sanitary pads are a luxury I cannot afford for my girls," she explained.

Because many women are unable to access these crucial products, their day-to-day lives are often impacted dramatically.

According to the Ministry of Women and Youth Affairs in Zimbabwe, 67% of girls miss school during their period because they cannot access sanitary products and clean sanitation facilities.

Disabled girls often drop out of school completely, as was the case with Constance, who uses a wheelchair.

Health experts also warn that without proper hygiene products, germs such as salmonella and E. Coli are far more likely to breed, causing infection,

"The girls complain of itching and burning sensations in the vagina," said Theresa Nkhoma, Community Childcare Worker under the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

"When examined at the hospitals, we notice yeast infections, urogenital tract infections and early signs of cervical cancer due to insertion in the vaginal tract.

“We are advocating for the ladies to receive sewing machines in the villages so they can learn to make reusable pads."

The Zimbabwean government has scrapped taxes on all sanitary products in an effort to ease the burden on families – but with inflation currently over 191.6% the prospect of buying hygiene products is still out of reach for many people like Constance and her sisters.

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