Muzane’s Weblog

i continue to bld
May 15, 2008, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“metaphorically bleeding represents my angst with all the social ills of the world, the violence encountered by women and transmen (who are menstruating obviously), incest, rape, … because we are beings.”

This is my 24th year now since I’ve been bleeding. during all those years I used different materials to contain my flows. Now i don’t care much anymore, but careful with what I rob with. Sometimes I wonder if this is a woman only affair really?
How does the internal and external environment contribute to(wards) this?
Why do we purchase sanitary pads, tampons, … to control and block bleeding?

In 2003 I embarked on a project – documenting my periods. I take photographs of my menses in various domains. It is political and personal act. Sometimes me & my partner bleed simultaneously.

I know that not all bleeding women like the experience, some get disgusted by it, others think I’m crazy. there are those who can’t bear the thought of a stranger asking them about their periods.

Personally, I don’t think there’s anything formal about bleeding. There are various artists who approached the subject matter in their own perspective e.g. judy chicago, inger, d’bi young, and many more, now I’m doing my periods….

Read the article below so that you’ll get a grip on why I do this particular project

05/12/2008 – Dignity: Period for Women of Zimbabwe
Source: Gender Links Opinion and Commentary service, Author: Miriam Madziwa

Although the situation is Zimbabwe is still uncertain, it is quite important to note that Dignity Period Campaigner, Feminist and ZCTU.

Vice-President Thabitha Khumalo will make her debut in parliament as she has been elected to represent her home district of Bulawayo East, in Zimbabwe.

For those of you who dont know Tabitha Khumalo:

She is a feminist activist who has been arrested 22 times, tortured so badly that her front teeth were knocked into her nose, raped by 28 men and had an AK-47 thrust up her vagina until she bled. Thabitha Khumalo’s crime: to campaign against a critical shortage of tampons and sanitary towels in Zimbabwe, one of the least talked about and most severe side-effects for women of the country’s economic crisis.

So desperate is the situation that many women are being forced to use old pieces of cloths or rolled-up pieces of newspaper or banana leaves.

Zimbabwe already has the world’s lowest life expectancy for women , Khumalo believes these unhygienic practices could make it drop to even lower level because infections will make them more vulnerable to HIV. It’s a time bomb, she said. The shortage is forcing schoolgirls to stay at home when they start menstruating. Many women can’t go to work or do their daily business as before, and some women have even been reported to sit crouched by the earth so that to avoid soiling themselves.

In the UK women buy more than three billion disposable sanitary products every year. It’s something we take for granted. As Zimbabwe is into a deep crisis – basic goods like sanitary products are becoming a luxury item only available to the rich.

Working in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU], Action for Southern Africa has launched a campaign to raise funds to ensure that they can buy large quantities of sanitary products in South Africa, and distribute them free of charge to Zimbabwean Women. Thabitha and her colleagues are asking you to help the women of her country take back their dignity.

For more information, if you find the time, please read the following article published in 2006 or visit ACTSA (Action for South Africa) website at

Dignity. Period!

Miriam Madziwa

During a recent visit to the supermarket to buy an emergency supply of tampons, I bumped into a friend. While checking out the range of products available we were astounded by the astronomical costs of these monthly requirements.

It is no secret that for most Zimbabwean women, the indignity of menstruating without proper sanitary protection is now a real pain, both literally and figuratively.

For schoolgirls, the unemployed and low-income earning working women, life now literally comes to a standstill at that time of the month because of inadequate protection. In desperation, some women use newspapers, old clothes and even tree bark. This has triggered an increase in vaginal infections, which most women cannot afford to get treated.

This, in turn, is leading to more violence against women as their partners, unable to distinguish between sexually transmitted infections and vaginal infections, accuse them of infidelity. Even more alarmingly, health experts warn that such infections provide an optimal environment for the spread of infections such as HIV.

Hours after that supermarket meeting, I was struck by how openly the two of us had discussed this feminine problem in the supermarket. Looking back, I could not recall a single incident when I had so freely talked about issues surrounding that time of the month. If we said anything, it was in whispers and in toilets or corners far from male ears. I guess the silence was because everything was okay when cotton wool, pads and tampons of varied quality and price were readily available in our shops.

It seems our country’s hyper-inflationary economic crisis does have a silver lining: the shortages of sanitary protection have brought women closer and lent them the courage to speak about feminine concerns in public without embarrassment.

It was probably inevitable that Zimbabwean women would gather the courage to act publicly to remedy the situation. Led by the feisty Thabitha Khumalo, of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), women have organised themselves to source affordable sanitary protection as part of a campaign codenamed Dignity. Period!

In addition to speaking out about the medical and psychological dangers that these shortages pose for women and girls, the campaigners are sourcing sanitary protection from well-wishers to distribute to women throughout the country.

But the campaign has served to remind us how insensitive our current leaders are to the needs of women. This insensitivity was apparent when the first consignment that arrived in the country was held up by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, demanding duty of R700 000.

As a woman who can barely afford to buy a month’s supply of these necessities, what really irked me was government using this as just another opportunity to generate revenue. The argument that it was trying to safeguard local producers does not hold water, since major sanitary protection producers relocated several years ago. These are not luxury items and should be allowed into the country duty free.

This campaign has taught us that speaking out for ourselves pays. The amount of media interest that the campaign has generated has encouraged donors to support the initiative. At the same time, the publicity has helped to inform desperate and dejected women that there was help at hand.

Khumalo says that while the initial objective was to assist women affiliated to the ZCTU, the campaign has broadened its scope to include vendors, women living with HIV and schoolchildren who have been writing to the organisers asking to be included in the programme. This expansion will not only ensure all deserving women have peace of mind, but also increase the number of capable women available to help with the distribution.

What really gets me smiling is that this time round, women have not waited for a male benefactor to come forward to speak on their behalf. Instead, Zimbabwean women are doing it for themselves. Now, when I am shopping around for sanitary ware, I no longer whinge and complain. I take time to reflect how the economic meltdown is prompting Zimbabwean women to start using all those ideas and skills they have acquired over the years from workshops and seminars, to make a direct and meaningful difference to the quality of their lives. Dignity. Period! Is a shining example of what women are capable of delivering.

Miriam Madziwa is a freelance journalist based in Zimbabwe. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary service


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May 12, 2008, 5:58 pm
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