GIVING girls DIGNITY
For many girls, periods are not just an inconvenience – if they can’t afford sanitary products, they skip school. But one woman wants to change that
FIVE YEARS AGO, Sue Barnes received an appeal for donations of sanitary pads for girls who couldn’t afford them. ‘My daughters were 12 and 14, and I couldn’t imagine them coping without basic sanitary protection,’ says the 4 -yearold urban-based clothing designer. Her research revealed that seven million South African girls aged 10 to 1 had no access to feminine hygiene wear, and most of them miss four days of school a month ‘At schools with few resources, girls often drop out. Lack of protection is threatening their future.’ It’s also a health issue. ‘Some tie bags lled with leaves and sand around themselves, or they use rags or newspapers, which can cause infections.’
So Sue created Subz ads comfortable, 100 cotton bikini panties paired with washable pads that attach to the gusset. A pack of three panties and nine biodegradable pads can last ve years and costs R20 . Sue also founded roject Dignity to help spread the word about the need for sanitary products. She distributes free packs of Subz ads at schools and coordinates talks on female anatomy and reproduction. ‘Girls love learning how their bodies work and it’s often taboo to talk about at home, so they nd it empowering,’ she says. ‘In ve years, we’ve given out more than 42 000 packs.’
‘Now I can be the girl I am without having to worry,’ says Grade 11 student Brightness azuju.
Sue Barnes (centre) on an educational school visit with team members from Sibaya Community
Trust and Lifeline Durban ( from left): Thabile Kojane, Sister Dlamini, Sue, Sizo Xulu, Sthe Luthuli and Mesesheke Ntsaba