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Women's Health

From Dancing ‘For a Living’ to Dancing For ‘Women’s Dignity’

29-year-old Proud Mugunhu, a popular Zimbabwean dancer, has mesmerized crowds and onlookers with his dancing skills at events as he gyrates to gather sanitary pads in order to give them to girls and women who are too poor to afford them. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS.

29-year-old Proud Mugunhu, a popular Zimbabwean dancer, has mesmerized crowds and onlookers with his dancing skills at events as he gyrates to gather sanitary pads in order to give them to girls and women who are too poor to afford them. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

BULAWAYO, Dec 13 2023 (IPS) - At first, he danced for money, but later on, he realized the need to dance for sanitary pads in order to help poor girls and women. Now, 29-year-old Proud Mugunhu conducts dance tutorials that earn him 100 pads from each session.

Mugunhu started his commercial dancing in Zimbabwe’s Epworth informal settlement east of Harare, the country’s capital, where he said he grew up seeing poor girls and women making do without sanitary pads during menstruation.

Now, Mugunhu, who has turned into a popular dancer, has become famed for combating period poverty.

He (Mugunhu) does not only dance to please onlookers, but has now chosen to dance in order to be rewarded with sanitary pads to pass these on to the girls and women pounded by period poverty.

In and outside Zimbabwe, Mugunhu now dances at events where he has struck deals to receive sanitary pads as payment in his war against rampant poverty.

As a result, his dancing has seen many of the girls and women graduate from using rags to something that gives them dignity and confidence.

“I started dancing in 2015—dancing commercially at weddings. I only began dancing for sanitary pads last year, and I am gathering as many sanitary pads as I can in order to help,” Mugunhu told IPS.

“Growing up in Epworth, I saw a lot in terms of the ravages of poverty, especially on girls. So, what I do is that I conduct dance classes for ordinary people, and I choose to be paid using sanitary pads in order for me to then use these to donate to poor girls and women.”

He claims that he gets more than 100 pads per dancing class that he conducts.

“I just want to help those in need. I’m praying that I will be able to get more sanitary pads so that I will be able to give to many girls and women in need.”

The destitution Mugunhu witnessed as he grew up in Epworth compelled him to dance.

In 2019, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube, made a surprise announcement that US$12.5 million had been allocated to acquire sanitary pads for poor rural girls in the country who had reached puberty.

Apparently, the news brought joy to Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, the then chairperson of Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education.

For many years, she (Misihairambwi) passionately lobbied for the provision of sanitary pads to schoolgirls, while she also made calls for a tax regime that made sanitary wear affordable to every woman in the country.

Whether or not the poor girls eventually received free sanitary pads from the government remains unclear to this day.

But a top government official in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Women Affairs has claimed that next year they are set to provide sanitary pads free of charge to the country’s poor women and girls.

“Next year, we have plans to work with women who are into sewing to sew reusable sanitary pads, which they will give to girls and women at no cost,” the Chief Director of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Lilian Matsika, told IPS.

With period poverty the norm in poor communities, women’s rights activists like Bridget Mushayahanya called on the government to end the crisis.

“What we want is for our government to understand that menstruation is something that women don’t choose to have. If it were possible, Mushayahanya said, “I would like for our government to work with other regional governments that do ‘pink tanks,’ which means that all items needed by women during menstruation are available for very low prices or free of charge.

Chipo Chikomo, founder of an organization called Nhanga Trust, which manufactures reusable sanitary pads for girls, bemoaned poverty, which she blamed for forcing many to be absent from school during their menstruation.

“We see many girls walking long distances to school; this means that during their monthly menstrual cycles, they don’t then go to school because they won’t have pads to use when they are having menstruation,” she told IPS.

Yet many, like Chikomo, complained of persistent period poverty. For others, like Anna Sande and Sharon Bare, heroic individuals such as Mugunhu stand out as saviors for poor girls and women hammered by period poverty.

Following this year’s elections, at 23 years of age, Sande became Epworth’s youngest mayor, taking charge of a poor local authority where period poverty is common for many.

“I am so grateful for the help I have obtained from Proud Tatenda Mugunhu, who gathers sanitary pads using his dancing talent to help poor girls and women in my community during their monthly periods,” Sande said in an interview with IPS.

Even ordinary Epworth residents like Sharon Bare cannot hide their joy as Mugunhu thwarts period poverty in their midst.

“I really appreciate everything that Mugunhu is doing. I am so proud he is doing a good thing to help poor girls and women get sanitary pads during menstruation,” Bare said.

Peace Hungwe, who is the founder of Peace Hub Zimbabwe, an organization that handles mental health cases in Harare, also showered Mugunhu with praise for his initiative to help poor girls and women surmount period poverty.

“At first, I want to thank Proud. Like his name suggests, he should be proud of himself. There are very few people who do what he is doing. Menstruation is a hard time for many poor girls and women, which leads them into sex work to merely get sanitary pads to use during menstruation,” she told IPS.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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