By Daniel Chigundu
PROPORTIONAL Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga has pleaded with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa to consider scrapping import duty on menstrual cups as sanitary pads crisis persist in Zimbabwe.
Menstrual cups are an alternative to sanitary pads and are considered economical over time as the same cup can be used for close to 10 years.
Presenting a motion on the cost of sanitary wear, in the National Assembly, Honourable Mushonga said menstrual cups should be included in the various rebates that Minister Chinamasa talked about in his 2018 National Budget.
“My request is that as we sit as a House, part of the rebates that the Minister was talking about – you remember we had the whole list for those of us who attended the post budget meeting yesterday, the experts gave us the number of rebates that the Minister of Finance has given that we encourage the Minister of Finance to at least begin to put a rebate on importation of sanitary wear.
“Again, the cost that I have given you around the cost of these things in Zimbabwe is exactly half when you get this packet of tampons in South Africa. When you get a packet of Lilets, exactly the same company in South Africa, you buy it for two dollars. It is still a lot of money but it is less than five dollars.
“In the short term, if we allowed this importation and were able to bring these things without charging duty, it means a lot of other people would be able to buy these particular products at a lower cost,” she said.
The issue of access to affordable sanitary wear has been raging on for some years from as far as 2000 and part of the problem is that most of the raw materials used in manufacturing them are imported from South Africa and China.
Meanwhile, Honourable Mushonga has pleaded with Parliament that this should be the last time the issue of sanitary pads is discussed and that action must follow.
“…I am about to get to the end of my political career sitting in this House, I beg you Mr Speaker through the other colleagues as a gift to some of us who may not be able to come back next time, to at least allow that this subject of sanitary wear be the last time that we are speaking to it and bring sanitary wear to the young women who are struggling every other month.
“It is unfair and not right, and we as a people, mothers and sisters should take a stand, including the fathers that are here to be able to support this motion,” she said.
According to Mushonga, about 52 percent of the population of Zimbabwe are women and about 40 percent of those women are actually menstruating “so if you look at it every day, there is a number of women that are actually menstruating. It is not accidental and it is not something that you can decide not to have; menstruation comes whether you like it or you do not.
“So, Mr Speaker, the issue of sanitary wear and the resources that are applied to sanitary wear should not be an issue of prioritisation; it should be an issue of necessity,” added the outspoken legislator and women’s rights advocate.
Contributing to the same motion, Mabvuka-Tafara legislator James Maridadi urged government to acquire sanitary pads making technology from India and begin mass production.
“Actually, the technology to produce tampons is not a very sophisticated technology. Honourable Makari spoke about it here that we could replicate what is happening in India. The technology is not very sophisticated and it is not very hard. You get technology from India and from China at a cost of less than $50 000.
“You can set up a plant in Harare which produces these things in mass production. Actually Mr Speaker, our Government should adopt a policy where they say, at every Government secondary school, sanitary towels must be available and these must be available to women freely. Girls must be able to walk into the headmaster’s office and say headmaster, I am taking these three for myself and for my friends.
“Actually, they must be available in the toilets just like condoms are available in toilets. I can walk into the gents’ toilet today and get a whole box of condoms and tomorrow there will be another supply. I can take that whole box of condoms and tomorrow there will still be another supply. Why can we not have sanitary wear available in public toilets and not in parliamentary toilets – like the one that is in Africa Unity Square?