Zimbabwean Women Face Climate Hardship, Marital Coercion

by Adenike Adeodun

Climate change shocks and entrenched poverty are driving young women in Zimbabwe’s isolated Chimanimani district into early marriages and exacerbating period poverty, sources told Newsday. Amid these challenges, green skilling initiatives are emerging as a beacon of hope for climate change adaptation.

Early marriages and the inability to afford menstrual products, a crisis known as period poverty, plague many adolescent girls in Zimbabwe, causing them to miss school. A May study by Care International revealed that 72% of Zimbabwean girls can’t buy sanitary products, and 62% skip school monthly due to a lack of access to menstrual wear.

According to a report by Newsday Zimbabwe, girls from low-income families, particularly in rural areas battered by droughts and floods, are most affected. These conditions are undermining their education and mental health as stigma compounds their plight.

Chelma Machiya, 21, from Machiya village in Chimanimani’s Ward 8, attests to the grim reality of period poverty and early marriage. However, she shares a glimmer of hope: “Through skills we’ve learned, we’re overcoming period poverty. We can now afford our own sanitary pads, safer than before, reducing health risks,” Machiya explained.

Yet, she lamented the arduous journey to access sexual and reproductive health services. “Health facilities are 4 kilometers away, a trek worsened by a stream without a bridge, becoming impassable during floods,” she added.

Another local woman, who wished to remain anonymous, voiced concerns over contaminated drinking water and the prevalence of early marriages in her village.

Stakeholders are being urged to intervene more robustly on child marriage and period poverty issues.

Lisa Bianca Bonongwe, from the nonprofit Shamwari YeMwanasikana, highlighted the stark vulnerabilities women and girls face due to climate disasters like flash floods and cyclones. “Inequalities in education and opportunities leave them susceptible to abuse,” Bonongwe emphasized.

As Zimbabwe grapples with the harsh realities of climate change, the situation in Chimanimani underscores a need for urgent action to safeguard young women’s health and futures.

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