The Sanitary Dignity Programme will have a lasting impact on schools and local communities.
At the launch of the KwaZulu-Natal leg of the pilot programme, additional learners in need of support were added to the beneficiaries' list.
A teacher at Nkonkoni Primary School in Umlazi, Sibongile Nxumalo, said the inclusion of her school in the programme is good news.
“Most of our learners come from underprivileged homes and are in desperate need of sanitary pads,” said Nxumalo.
Government is committed to ensuring young girls remain in school and that the access to sanitary dignity products is universal. As such, it announced a zero-tax rating on sanitary products, which took effect from 1 April 2019.
Since 2016, the Department of Women has coordinated the development of the Sanitary Dignity Policy Framework which seeks to provide minimum norms and standards for the provision of sanitary towels to indigent girls and women.
Too often, girls miss school when they are menstruating because they cannot afford to purchase sanitary products.
In addressing the plight of girl children, a multi-pronged approach has been followed. According to the Department of Women, the framework is aimed at increasing the participation of women in the entire sanitary product value chain, from sanitary pads production, to transportation, storage and disposal.
Spokesperson for the Department of Women, Shalen Gajadhar, said the project will empower women entrepreneurs and be women-driven.
The department will also work with the Department of Social Development to teach pupils about the changes, both physical and emotional, that come with going through puberty.
Gajadhar said the programme will look at the proper disposal of sanitary towels. He said: “When you look at schools, the female bathrooms are more often clogged than the male ones because schoolgirls going through their cycle tend to flush toilet paper and old rags down the toilet. In a school with 10 toilets, you find that only one or two are working.”
KwaZulu-Natal has been allocated R27 million to roll-out sanitary towels in the 2019/20 financial year. Earlier launches of the programme took place in Piet Retief in Mpumalanga and in Makana in the Eastern Cape.