Part 2: Five Women on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

This post is the second part in a series of five articles on how women are responding to the pandemic around the world. Read "Part 1: Going House-to-House in Kenya."

Seeing the Downside of Depending on Imports in Zimbabwe

Chipo Chikomo, Days for Girls Country Director in Zimbabwe, faced a challenging situation in a landlocked country that depends on imports, making it nearly impossible to get supplies to make menstrual kits. Airlines had been grounded, and trucking firms were charging exorbitant amounts per kilo to transport goods.

She especially worried about what would happen to women and girls during menstruation.

“During the virus,” Chipo feels, “menstrual hygiene should be an essential service, but we’re not seeing the same urgency with menstrual products that we’re seeing with face masks.”

Girls are not comfortable telling their fathers they need supplies, and most are not connected to the Internet. Supermarkets don’t sell washable pads, and the expensive, imported disposable pads are beyond the means of most in a country already hit with low wages and 90 percent unemployment.

Thanks to Days for Girls, Chipo received relief funds to get fabric stuck in South Africa shipped to her. “Even before we applied, they offered these funds, which is truly forward thinking.”

She has been making washable masks based on patterns supplied by Days for Girls and selling them to organizations such as the UN and UNICEF. The government has mandated the wearing of masks while outside, a rule that is strictly enforced.

A global citizen determined to improve the situation in her country, Chipo studied in India and the U.S., where she met President Obama, and has even met the First Lady of Zimbabwe. She believes that you cannot wait for government bailouts; you must work with what you have, finding solutions to challenges.

“We have poverty,” she admits, “but what are we doing about it? We have arable land that we can do much with. We have to start with what we have, challenge the status quo, and not be so dependent on imports from other countries and handouts from NGOs.”

An example of this mindset is her approach to working with UNICEF, who donated sewing machines to Days for Girls. She believes that her team can do more than just take donations; they can become major suppliers of menstrual kits and masks to UNICEF, if they are given the proper guidance.

Continue reading "Part 3: Turning a Difficult Situation Into an Opportunity in Guatemala."

Special thanks to Days for Girls volunteer, Elizabeth Titus for contributing this article.

Elizabeth Titus has been an English teacher, a journalist, an advertising executive, and a communications director (15 years at American Express). For the past decade, she has focused on pro bono consulting to nonprofits, via PennPAC, for graduates of the University of Pennsylvania; Taproot; and Catchafire. She is especially interested in gender equality and the education of girls and women. A freelance writer, her articles have appeared in Ms., Narrative, and The Humanist, among others. She lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

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