FIRST LADY Esther Lungu says lack of access to hygiene products is among the greatest challenges being experienced by young girls in rural areas.
Ms Lungu said it was estimated that girls who did not have access to sanitary products lose not less than five days of their productive time every month.
Officiating at a two day workshop on ‘’Women 4girls Dignity’’ workshop in Lusaka yesterday, Ms Lungu said in many parts of sub-Sahara Africa, girls miss up to five days of school in a month or drop out entirely because of lack of hygiene products and a host of other challenges such as long distances to water points and schools.
She observed that it was difficult for the girls to get on with their lives because of the challenges presented by poor sanitary conditions.
Ms Lungu said the girls were often limited by the cost and availability of sanitary products, saying the private sector could play a critical role in ensuring the cost of the products were affordable, especially for school girls.
The first lady pointed out that in developing countries, provision and access to water was poor and posed an environmental threat.
She noted that the availability and disposal facilities of materials still lacks in most schools and this made it difficult for girls to dispose of sanitary waste in a hygienic manner.
‘’Allow me to say that the advocacy we have joined for the dignity of girls will contribute to the decrease of girls dropping out of school, getting into early marriages and becoming pregnant due to lack of feminine hygiene essentials. Girls will stay longer in schools because they will not go to look for unhealthy sexual relationships just to acquire money to purchase what they do not have,’’ she said.
And South African high commissioner to Zambia Ms Sikose Mji said there was need to raise funds and help support teenage girls who could not afford sanitary products in schools.
She said many girls in rural areas of Zambia had little or no access to, or could not afford disposable sanitary wear and will use traditional methods, which may not meet acceptable hygiene standards.
Ms Mji thanked Project Luangwa and Subz of South Africa for the initiative to help address the issue of manufacturing washable, reusable sanitary kits.