Campaign aims to uphold girls’ dignity
THE plight of girls missing school days due to the lack of means to afford sanitary pads during menstruation gained much more attention with the involvement of the late racing champion Gugu Zulu with his wife, Letshego, on the morning of Mandela Day, June 18, last year.
Zulu died while on that cause, on that day, after attempting to summit Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds and awareness for a campaign to keep girls in school throughout the academic year. Both his memory and effort and those who survived him, will not be forgotten.
The campaign is spearheaded by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in partnership with the Imbumba Foundation and a stakeholder community that continue to stay the cause, including a group of ambassadors united under the banner of Trek4Mandela expedition.
It aims to raise enough funds to ensure that 350 000 girls do not miss a day of school during their periods.
Zulu lost his life in a selfless act to raise awareness and help thousands of girls. The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s aim is to assist 2 million girls by the year 2020.
According to the foundation’s research, girls from disadvantaged backgrounds can miss up to 50 days of school a year because they can’t afford pads.
Another formidable voice to the campaign is that of former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini whose frontline stance on #FeesMustFall speaks for itself.
As a participant to this campaign with Black Consciousness woman activist Palesa Mazamisa, propelled by the supportive platform of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in 2010, under the banner of the Dignity Campaign with Sibongile Khumalo doubling up as the patron of the campaign, the question of dignity has been a ceaseless point of concern.
Mazamisa, Khumalo and I were even more elated to hear the ANC Youth League adding its weight of support to the campaign.
The dignity aspect for Dlamini’s involvement is the unmistakeable trigger:
“When I was in Umhlabuyalingana I discovered that young girls use cloth as sanitary towels when it’s that time of the month.
“Even worse they have to cross the river or rather not go to school for those number of days.
“I then made a commitment to raise 10 000 packs of sanitary towels. I now request that we assist to restore the dignity of a black child.”
Campaigners of this cause dare not miss Dlamini’s call to dignity. It is an issue I have agonised on for a considerable time as has Dr Mamphela Ramphele.
This campaigns brings to the fore the interaction of aspects of privacy, health and dignity, which ought to be factored in the championing of this cause by concerned parties.
Menstruation, while biological and uniquely specific to girls, should continue to enjoy confidentiality.
Mobilisation efforts to help girls cope with health needs, by means of sanitary provision, need not be accompanied with publicity fanfare by well-meaning dispensers.
An element of privacy must be retained for dignity sake.
Why should anyone be accorded the privacy of a bathroom but equally be inundated with public glare at the point of being aided with a tissue paper when it gets delivered?
There can be no doubt that sanitary pads are a matter of girls’ reproductive health. That too is a private matter rather than for public invasion, unintentionally.
Recipients of sanitary pads should be afforded confidentiality in the same fashion with which the dispensing of prescribed medicine is considered.
Raising public awareness about the need for sanitary pads, because of the negative educational consequences this poses on school-going girls, is perfectly legitimate.
But publicly parading girls as recipients in the performance of this good gesture is problematic as it impacts on privacy as it does on their dignity.
Let effort and dignity be a winner in the performance of the campaign’s good gesture.
Zulu died while on that cause… to raise funds and awareness
A Million Comforts at the Ivory Park Secondary School. Edith Mamosebo (headmistress) stand with Gerry Eldson (MC) in appreciation of the effort. Picture: Chris Collingridge