The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] and Cosatu have come together around a campaign which proves that trade unions are not narrowly focused on workplace issues but are concerned with the broader problems facing working-class people.
The two federations combined to organise delivery of thousands of sanitary pads to the working class and poor women of Zimbabwe. These have become so expensive that close to 5 million women could be resorting to using old newspapers or rags, while those in the rural areas are using soft fibre from trees or bark as a substitute, which may cause infection. Health experts have condemned the use of unsafe products by women, especially girls, because this may cause infertility. Tabitha Khumalo, a member of the ZCTU Women’s Advisory Council, says the shortage of the sanitary towels does not only threaten women’s health but their dignity as well.
As the economic crisis deepens, basic goods like these sanitary products are becoming a luxury item. A pack of 50 towels now costs over Z$200,000 [R13]. Many women in the country earn on average about Z$2 million [R130] per month. Most of the women in the rural areas survive on less than US$1 a day.
Those to benefit will include trade union women members and the unemployed, especially those in informal employment who have been affected by the unpopular Operation Restore Order which was launched by the government in May last year. The first consignment was delivered to Cosatu House on February 20 and then dispatched to Zimbabwe on February 23. All this has become necessary since the British company Johnson and Johnson pulled out of Zimbabwe. The money for these much needed sanitary pads has been raised by the British trade union movement in solidarity with their Southern African counterparts.
The Zimbabwean government has agreed in principle to waive the duty payable on these products.
The ZCTU wishes to thank all those who have donated and urges South Africans to continue to donate more pads. Once a warehouse has been secured to store future donated stocks, we will notify all Numsa offices of where to send your contribution. Watch this space!