The government should make sanitary pads easily accessible at clinics and schools for young women who need them. Photo: IOL

Cape Town - The government should make sanitary pads easily accessible at clinics and schools for young women who need them. 

These were the sentiments of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala, who also said that women’s health needed to be prioritised by both national and provincial governments.

“Comprehensive sexual education also needs to be available in schools, which includes access to information about HIV preventative methods for rape and unplanned sex,” she said.

She noted that many young women who live in informal settlements and townships did not have access to pads and were not provided with adequate sexual education, which led to many unplanned pregnancies and exposure to HIV.

“Continuous conversations need to take place with young people and policy-makers should provide the necessary skills to young women for them to be independent,” she said.

Social Development Department spokesperson Joshua Chigome said that in South Africa the implementation of menstrual hygiene and sanitation-related legislation was incoherent and, for the most part, left up to individual municipalities without national enforcement or regulation.

Chigome said it was decided that a pilot project should be conducted with a target group comprising of a cross-section of Q1 and Q5 schools - no-fee paying schools and fee-charging schools - cross-referenced with 2016 to 2018 data on school attendance and retention rates of female pupils in Grades 4 to 12.

“It was decided that the project should prioritise schools in rural areas and include special needs schools. The breakdown of the number of schools and learners was determined by the Budget allocation set by national and provincial Treasury,” he said.

Beauty For Ashes, an NGO established in 2018 by Colleen West with the aim of empowering women, will be having a sanitary pad drive at Blackheath Secondary School on Wednesday, July 2, with about 150 pads being distributed to young women.

The Health Department said that community health workers and community-based services did try to provide education and information regarding contraceptive choices and family planning.

“To better target young women, adolescent and youth friendly services (AYFS) are offered at clinics in the primary health platform,” said department spokesperson Marika Champion.

“Adolescents face many barriers to accessing health services, and AYFS tries to address these by making services more attractive to young people and retaining them within care to support ongoing needs as they develop into adulthood.”

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