Ending period poverty one school at a time
Cape Town - Period poverty remains a huge issue in South Africa.
Millions of girls and women have their lives on hold – for five to seven days each month – due to a lack of access to menstrual products, often having to resort to home- made alternatives.
While government, with the aim of making menstrual products more affordable, dropped the 15% Value Added Tax on menstrual products in 2019, the cost of basic sanitary pads remains a burden for the vulnerable.
According to the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities Sanitary Dignity Framework, published in 2019, sanitary dignity in South Africa means that all girls and women should be able to experience their period with dignity, regardless of socio-economic factors, have access to menstrual information and knowledge, sanitary products, and safe (hygienic) facilities.
Added to this framework is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s systemic factors which facilitate sanitary dignity management. These include having safe and affordable products readily available, access to health services, sanitation and bathing facilities, adequate disposal options and “positive social norms” to name but a few.
AquAzzurra Foundation founder and director, Mina Manoussakis, said there was too little awareness around menstrual issues.
“Many people don’t realise how a lack of access to menstrual health impacts girls and young women, and that needs to change. If one looks at the United Nation's sustainable development goals, you’ll see that goal one is to end poverty, goal three is to guarantee good health and well-being, number four to guarantee quality education, five to achieve gender equality and 10, to reduce inequalities. Five out of 17 of these goals will never be accomplished if an estimated 3.7 million girls cannot have access to menstrual health management,” she said.
In a bid to fight the injustices that are a reality to so many young girls, AquAzzurra Foundation and Aqua Dolphin Swimming Club, in association with MENstruation Foundation are fighting period poverty, starting with four Cape Town schools.
“We would like to offer girls at our four partner public schools – The Cape Academy of Maths, Science & Technology (CAMST), Kronendal Primary, Muizenberg Primary and Bergvliet Primary the right of having their period without having to choose between a sanitary pad and a loaf of bread. We aim to install automatic distributors in those schools with good quality, organic sanitary pads with an eye to the environment as well,” Manoussakis said
MENstruation Foundation director, Marius Basson said: “We are happy to join forces with AquAzzurra Foundation to fight poverty and also teach water safety and swimming.”
CAMST principal, Angie Naidu said: “ Most of our learners come from the most disadvantaged communities. Our female learners tend to stay absent from school and hostel during their menstrual time, simply due to not having enough money to come to school, as the money is used for sanitary pads instead.”
“The impact of having a sanitary dispenser and the donation towards the school will be something that affords them the dignity and privacy they need. They will not only be able to come to school but also know that this is one less thing for them to worry about," said Naidu.
“Once this kicks off, we hope to roll out the project at more schools. If we want sport to become a human right, we need to take care of the basics. We invite the public to join us and actively play a role in changing the lives of girls and young women. Help us to help them. A donation, even as small as R15, will go a long way,” said Manoussakis.