There are 7 000 000 girls in South Africa between the ages of 13 and 19. This is the school going age of menstruating girls. Statistics show that 4 000 000 of these girls do not have regular access to sanitary products.
Research has confirmed the negative effects of poor menstrual health management on a girl’s education. The lack of access to sanitary wear and adequate sanitation facilities can affect a girl’s attendance at school by 25% per year. This equates to one week every month, the consequences of which are huge to a school girls education.
The root cause of this problem is poverty. In Africa, when having to make the choice between buying food or sanitary pads amongst households struggling to survive, food will always be the winner.
The average person who menstruates will use up to 17000 sanitary products in their lifetime. A packet of disposable pads typically costs R45.00, one pad is about R2.80 which equates to a spend close to R48 000 in their lifetime. The high cost of sanitation products means that many girls are forced to use unhygienic methods to manage her menstruation cycle and will often miss out on school when her flow is heavier. The use of alternative sanitary towels such as rags, newspapers, sand and leaves and previously soiled and dried sanitary pads, could also affect their health as poor hygiene can increase susceptibility to infection. The lack of a supportive family unit doesn’t help. Parents are often absent and child-headed homes are common. Students might live with extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles and this gives rise to other issues. For example some children receive government grants, but the money is not spent on their needs. Sanitation in the schools is mostly dismal, if not of a very low standard, which makes it extremely difficult for girls to discard used sanitary pads.
There have been many useful and cost-effective developments in the sanitary wear arena. Reusable sanitary pads and sanitary wear which comprise of a pad and pantie duo, which are washable and can be re-used. The panties are made of 100 percent cotton and the pads from five layers of hydrophilic fabric, which wicks moisture away from the body. These pads can last a girl up to five years and are a cost efficient and safe hygienic product for repeated use.
Masibambane Secondary School is set within the informal community of Bloekombos, the fastest growing informal settlement in the Western Cape. Masibambane is hugely over-prescribed with more than 1900 learners, creating classes of up to 50 learners per class. Principle Naidoo, who heads up this school is an extremely dedicated and committed Leader and keen to engage and collaborate with all projects that will contribute to the school and it’s learners. Having been with the school for 15 years Principle Naidoo has dramatically increased the overall Matric Pass Rate from 37% to over 85% during his leadership and the students absolutely adore him.
There are currently 1184 girls at Masibambane School between the ages of 12 – 18 who, will all be/shortly be, dealing with the consequences of menstruation.
These undermine the educational opportunities, health and overall social status of women and girls around the world. As a result, millions of women and girls are kept from reaching their full potential.
The aim of this campaign is to break the silence, raise awareness and change negative social norms. To engage and educate decision-makers to increase the political priority and catalyse action for MHM, at global, national and local levels.
For Youth Day on Tuesday (16 June), the SOS team had a packed day of GREAT visits with the youth in our communities.
We teamed up with Siv Ngesi (Comedian/Media Personality) & Marius Basson from EMSAP NPO for a wonderful introduction to Philani Zuma, Founder of O Graceland, who is making a huge difference to many young girls lives. O Grace Land provides a safe place for 20 girls over the age of 18 – who have been released from homes and institutions – to grow and to get ready to step into adult life. They offer life skills and a safe place to stay while the girls complete their education and prepare for the working world. It was such a pleasure for us to meet some of the Girls & hear about the amazing progress they are making.
We then went to Elishama Praise & Worship Ministry in Nkandla, Bloekombos settlement, to meet with some of the teenage girls from the community, discussing the importance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) & providing them with some goodie bags and vouchers.
Next we met with our Favourite Principal at Masibambane Secondary School – Rajan Naidoo – where we also met with some learners, to not only discuss MHM but also surprised them with the announcement of the launch of the SOS Youth Club. This Club will be focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘SDG’s’ – educating the youth members about the importance of these goals to protect the planet and to improve the lives of everyone, everywhere.