“Be the change you want to see in the world” is a quote by Mahātmā Gandhi that has inspired Brian Hlongwane, a young Free State community activist, to launch a project to support young girls in puberty and end period poverty.
Hlongwane, who also serves as a member of the South African Gender Equality Forum SRHR and Bodily Autonomy Action Coalition, was inspired to get involved in uplifting his community by ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, one of South Africa’s leading youth NGOs, which empowers and trains young people in leadership, and encourages them to start initiatives to contribute to the upliftment of their communities.
To date, 4500 South African youth have gone through its programmes.
Hlongwane’s project is called the Care Package Drive, and he assists young women in their menstruation journey by supplying them with essential care packages to assist them with their periods.
“For many young girls, the first time they hear the phrase, ‘You are now a woman’, is at menarche, the first time they menstruate. It should be a celebration, an important right-of-passage into maturity. But for many young girls, it is unpleasant because they are uninformed and unprepared,” Hlongwane said.
According to the international NGO, Action Aid, one in 10 girls in Africa miss school because of menstruation. Furthermore, a research study conducted by the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic found that 30% of SA learners miss school when menstruating.
“It is against the backdrop of this research that the Blooming Buds Foundation NPC constantly seeks donations to provide identified, select groups of adolescent schoolgirls in the Motheo District in the Free State Province with care packages comprising sanitary pads, school shoes and stationery,” Hlongwane explained.
He is the community engagement and fundraising officer responsible for the Care Package Drive project.
At the core, he wants to assist young girls and women aged 14-18 years, to keep up with their education through the care package project because they have everything they need to maintain personal hygiene and attend school.
His project relies on donations from the community, and he constantly engages with health structures within the community and in Government and private institutions to raise funds.
“I do the work I do because I live the saying, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ and I fully subscribe to the philosophy of ‘Paying it forward’. There is a lack of quality healthcare and information and services at the disposal of adolescent schoolgirls. I am seeking collaboration with DBE, DSD, and DOH in increasing access to readily available information and services timeously, as well as striking private sector partnerships to help fund and sustain the various initiatives,” Hlongwane added.