Catholic Entity Launches “Gift” Initiative to Address Sanitation among Zimbabwean Women

Janet Nyamutenha (37) from Zimbabwe is pictured with the free dignity kit she received through a women’s empowerment initiative. Before this, she couldn’t afford feminine hygiene products. Credit: Trócaire

The overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, is providing basic hygiene products to women and girls in Zimbabwe’s Catholic Diocese of Mutare in an initiative the agency has dubbed “Dignity Gift”.

In a Tuesday, November 30 report,  Trocaire officials highlight the challenges women and girls in Zimbabwe’s Mutasa district in the country’s Eastern region face in accessing monthly sanitary pads, linking the challenge to what they refer to as “period poverty.”

“Period poverty in Zimbabwe is driving thousands of women and girls to desperate measures. Shortage of money and a worsening humanitarian crisis means most can’t afford basic hygiene products like sanitary pads and soap,” Trócaire officials say in the report.

They add, “These women put the needs of their family first and their own needs last, and often their husbands are not prepared to buy these essentials. To them it’s a waste of money.”

To restore the dignity of the women, Trócaire is working with the Diocese of Mutare Community Care Program (DOMCCP) on a women’s empowerment program that seeks to “help combat period poverty in Mutasa district.”


Janet Nyamutenha, a 37-year-old mother of three is a beneficiary of the initiative. In the November 30 report, Ms. Nyamutenha narrates that she used to improvise sanitary products from old rags, which she used during her periods.

“As an unemployed woman working as a peasant farmer with only two hectares of land it is difficult to make ends meet. There is no way I can spend $2.00 USD each month on pads. I would rather buy cooking oil with the money I have,” Ms. Nyamutenha is quoted as saying.

She adds, “It is unthinkable to budget for sanitary items so I use old clothes during my period. At times the pieces of cloth I use destroy my clothes.”

The improvisation, Trócaire officials say, can “cause severe reproductive and urinary tract infections in women and girls.”

Trócaire reports that 80 percent of women within Ms. Nyamutenha’s area cannot afford sanitary pads and do not even prioritize them because of their unemployment state; the little they get is from their small-scale subsistence farming, which is channeled on food.

More in Africa

Ms. Nyamutenha was also among the 1000 women who were given dignity kits containing sanitary pads, toothpaste, toothbrush, petroleum jelly and soap.

“I am really grateful to DOMCCP and Trócaire,” she is quoted as saying in the November 30 report, and adds, “This kind gesture allows us as women to restore our dignity.”

According to the leadership of Trócaire, the dignity kits are designed to go for a period of two months and this year, each woman has been given the kits three times, the report indicates.

“This women’s initiative has been supporting Government efforts in the fight to end period poverty in remote parts of Zimbabwe, with the aim of making Sexual Reproductive Health services accessible to all,” Trócaire officials say in the report.

Trócaire further reports that due to the high inflation index rate of Zimbabwe, the Southern African nation has “extremely” high prices of sanitary pads and struggling women cannot afford to buy the products.


According to SNV Netherlands Development Organization, 72 percent of menstruating schoolgirls in Zimbabwe do not use sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. 

The overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland takes the initiative of empowering the group and even considers it as a top priority.

The Catholic entity further reports that Zimbabwe continues to face severe water restrictions and 37 percent of households in rural areas still do not have toilets.

“Supporting women’s self-esteem and confidence in the countries where we work is a top priority for Trócaire and our partners,” the officials say, and add, “Safeguarding dignity amongst women and girls is vital for living through the most unimaginable humanitarian crisis.”