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BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
FASHION designer Sikhanyisiwe “Ska” Sebata’s display titled Bleeding Us Out at the Redesigning a Woman’s Space exhibition, which opened on Thursday at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Harare, calls on government to promote free distribution of sanitary pads.
On display at the exhibition, which is set to close on May 20, is a doll in a blood-stained dress depicting how women are labelled dirty or impure during their menstrual periods.
Sebata challenged government to act to ensure that sanitary wear is made free for women, especially to rural women of schoolgoing ages, who at times miss their lessons during their menstrual period.
“The stain on the dress is made up of 30 to 40ml of liquid, which makes up the average amount of blood that is bled by every woman on their period. For most girls, menstruation period is four to five days per month. Without the necessary sanitary wear, they are forced not to attend school until it’s over, robbing them an average of 15 days per school term. About 54% are mocked and stigmatised when they stain their uniforms,” she said.
“Government purchases condoms for free distribution every year to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STIs and HIV transmission, but that has never been the case with sanitary wear.”
Sebata noted that underprivileged women get exposed to various genital infections as they resort to using alternative but often harmful material including tissue paper, rags, leaves and cow dung due to the high cost of menstrual pads.
“We did not choose to bleed. Why can’t government make it free? If that’s not possible, they should at least be affordable in urban areas and free in remote areas,” she said.
The fashion designer, who is employed by Rise and Shine Trust in Victoria Falls, said women’s options were limited as menstrual cups, at US$15 each, were expensive, while ordinary pads ranged from US$2,80 to US$4,20.
The guest of honour at the exhibition, feminist author Virginia Phiri, said women were often relegated to “housekeeper” roles.
“It must be appreciated that NGZ has made it possible for female
artists to claim their space and excel. This will inspire many women to
take arts as a profession,” she said.
NGZ executive director Doreen Sibanda said 30 women were taking part in the exhibition.
“We feel very proud of that. The platform was very much appreciated by women and I hope they will be here again next year,” she said.