Oct 2020 1st edition

Sanitary towels bring dignity to young women

Written by: Silusapho Nyanda

A sanitary towel donation drive has enabled girls in three provinces who would previously have missed school when menstruating, to continue with their education. Petunia Shongoane has dedicated her time to ensuring that girls in rural areas do not miss school when they are on their periods.

Sanitary towels have been donated by Petunia Shongoane (27), the project manager at the National Library of South Africa, to schools in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Zebediela in Limpopo and Pretoria in Gauteng.

Shongoane says the donation of the sanitary towels to schools is bringing dignity to young girls.

“A lot of young girls drop out of school because they are made to suffer the indignity of being teased by their peers when they go through their menstrual cycle,” she says.

In addition, their schoolwork suffers because if they cannot afford sanitary products, they have to miss school when they are menstruating. 

Following the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for ordinary South Africans and private companies to adopt a school in need, Shongoane says she chose to become involved with two rural schools – in Mokopane, Limpopo – because the majority of girls in rural areas do not have access to sanitary towels.

Shongoane says that girls without access to sanitary products can miss up to 11 weeks of school a year and this often means they do not perform as well as other children.

Government supplies free sanitary pads

The programme to supply young girls with sanitary towels saw government supplying more than 115 million pupils with sanitary towels in the 2019/20 financial year.

According to Acting Chief Director for Social Empowerment at the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Sipiwo Matshoba, the pads ensured that no girl child missed or dropped out of school because they were menstruating.

He says they are working with various provincial government departments to eventually provide free sanitary towels to all girls at no-fee schools.

“As part of the Sanitary Dignity Framework, we are forming partnerships with non-governmental organisations and private companies to increase the number of sanitary towels that are donated to schools, especially the no-fee schools,” says Matshoba.

Matshoba says those looking to donate sanitary towels should contact their provincial department of education or social development to find out which schools are not already covered by the state. 

Those looking to donate to Shongoane’s sanitary towel drive can contact her on Twitter using the handle @Petunia_SS or send her an email: petunia.ss@yahoo.com.

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