A girl's basic needs must be a priority
NGO dreams of a word in which teens won't miss school
WOMEN across Africa have struggled to get access to sanitary towels for many decades.
Teens across the continent miss at least 12 weeks of school every year because they don’t have sanitary towels, and are left with no other alternative but to stay away school. In a world that seems to have much bigger problems” to deal with, providing a basic need such as sanitary pads for young girls is not high on the list of priorities.
According to Statistics South Africa, there are 4-million girls in no-fee schools in the country. This figure doesn’t include other disadvantaged girls.
So, an estimated 6-million girls in the country have to use newspapers, twigs and pieces of cloth as an alternative to sanitary pads things that make them susceptible to infections.
Dignity Dreams, a Pretoria-based NGO, recently introduced reusable sanitary towels which it is distributing at no-fee schools in the nine provinces.
Dignity Dreams’ Sandra Millar said the idea came from wanting to provide the girls with something sustainable.
The reusable pads last between three and five years.
The price of sanitary towels is unreasonable. Us middle-class people don’t think much about buying them, but if you don’t even have food to put on the table, the last thing you are concerned about is sanitary pads,” she said.
The reusable pads are made from double towelling, plastic and polycotton. They can be washed with soap and soaked with coarse salt to soften them.
One of the major issues the NGO has had to deal with is lack of education when it comes to this basic hygiene matter.
Educating girls on the changes their bodies go through is still imperative.
These girls don’t know what being on their periods means. They sit at home and are ashamed of what is happening to their bodies. They think they have done something wrong. They need to be taught that having their periods means that they are fertile,” said Millar.
About 4-million packs made up of one colourful drawstring polycotton bag, six washable absorbent pads, three pairs of panties and an instruction sheet have been handed out to schoolgirls this year.
We start with 10-year-olds because, ideally, a girl’s first experience should be with our packs,” Millar said.
Dignity Dreams also aims to help students, working mothers, caregivers, mothers who have recently given birth and frail, elderly women.
This still does not signal a victory, but it is a step closer to ending the war against women’s femininity.
It is, however, still shocking that sanitary products cannot be made freely available as the government has done with condoms, for example, considering that they are a basic need.
# $ # 5 % * / 0 ' 0 ' !