Cam­paign aims to up­hold girls’ dig­nity

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Oupa Ng­wenya

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

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