By Olerato Carol Manyaapelo
The issue of young girls missing school due to their periods and lack of sanitary towels is a pressing concern that needs the government, health departments, and other related departments’ attention and action.
The MEC of Health, Madoda Sambatha, launched a sanitary towel campaign recently in Potchefstroom. The sanitary towel campaign according to the MEC is set to provide free sanitary towels to the North West TVET college learners through the department of health, culminating in district-integrated campaigns that include women’s health activities and accelerated 95-95-95 plans. The department will be working with the national government in ensuring that there is progress and performance in the implementation of providing free access of sanitary towels to a girl child attending school in the province. The provision of free sanitary towels in the province is set to expand to rural schools and North West University.
The North West province is known for being surrounded by rural areas, and the majority of the community in the province is from low-income backgrounds and cannot afford to purchase sanitary products such as pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. This can lead to significant challenges for a girl child attending school in the province as their background compromises their hygiene, health, education, and participation in various activities.
Period poverty can result in young girls resorting to using inadequate, unsanitary alternatives, such as old rags or tissue paper, which can lead to discomfort, infections, and other health problems. Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products due to financial constraints.
The lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene resources and facilities can contribute to absenteeism from school, as well as a sense of shame and stigma surrounding menstruation.
This cycle of missed school days can have far-reaching consequences, perpetuating inequality and hindering the potential of students. By addressing this issue, the MEC of Health, Madoda Sambatha, and the health department will not only empower young girls to continue with their education uninterrupted but will also contribute more to an equitable and inclusive society as stipulated in the national development goals.
The provision of free sanitary towels in North West TVET colleges gives young girls the opportunity to attend classes regularly without fear of embarrassment or discomfort. This proves the office of the MEC of Health and other related departments in the North West province’s commitment to social responsibilities and supporting the well-being of all community members in the province.
The MEC will start an initiative to have sanitary towel dispensers installed in colleges, schools, and campuses across the province. This will serve as a long-term solution to ensure that there are free and accessible sanitary products for young girls in the province. The sanitary pad dispensers will hold the department and the school management accountable, as dispensers are required to be filled on a weekly or daily basis. It will also ensure that sanitary products are always accessible in schools.
The installation of sanitary towel dispensers in North West colleges and schools will contribute to enhancing the Department of Health’s service delivery. This initiative will provide easy access to menstrual hygiene, promote menstrual health, and help address period poverty challenges facing the province and the country at large. It aligns properly with the department’s efforts to ensure that essential health and hygiene services are accessible to all. It also impacts positively to the province education and well-being of young women.
The sanitary towel campaign launched by the MEC of Health and the installation of pad dispensers provide positive support and an inclusive environment for female learners in the province. Access to free sanitary products will assist young girls in the province to bleed free. This campaign proves the department’s commitment to not only provide free condoms but to also ensure that pads are provided freely to young girls, as menstruation is not a choice, but sex is a choice.
*Manyaapelo is from the office of the MEC of Health in the North West.
**The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL