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

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - MARIE CARES -

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

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