“You will have ample time for sex; for now just focus on your education,” said Mayathula-Khoza.
She was distributing sanitary towels to the girls who needed them the most as part of the provincial government’s campaign entitled, "Invest in a girl child and empower a young woman".
The MEC had a one-on-one dialogue with the pupils and told them to take responsibly for their bodies and learn to say no. “My children, no one has authority on your bodies; say no to the men who want to take advantage of you,” said Khoza.
“We are also going to talk to the older men who take advantage of young women. Only God can bless you; blessers will bless you with HIV and babies. You have ample time for sex; for now, focus on your education.”
During the dialogue, also attended by social workers, the girls voiced their frustrations regarding substance and sexual abuse.
The MEC was asked what girls should do when fathers sexually abused children with the knowledge of the mother. The pupils also wanted advice on how to respond when older men stalked them for sex, and who to contact when a family survived on prostitution money.
Tears flowed when another girl asked what to do when “your family constantly refers to you as a illegitimate or an adopted child".
There were too many questions, and a proposal was made for a box to be set up at the school where girls would put in messages on issues to be addressed by social workers.
Mayathula-Khoza saluted the girls for being brave about voicing their issues and assured them that they would all get the proper help they needed. “I salute you all for telling me what you had in your hearts; I assure you that all will be addressed by social workers.”
She promised to hold a dialogue at the school once every six months to engage with the girls.
Mayathula-Khoza said the department saw fit to celebrate Women’s Month with the girls at the school.
She acknowledged the power struggles women in general still faced in South Africa and said that form of patriarchy needed to be dismantled. “Patriarchy begins at home when we say our boys must be muscular or better and superior,” she said.
She also touched on the issue of women being killed in South Africa, saying she was worried about the number of deaths of women.
Mayathula-Khoza said the aim of the campaign was to break the silence on abuse and issues affecting women, in addition to giving out out sanitary towels to underprivileged girls, some of whom missed up to four days of school every month because they could not afford them.
Khoza said it was the department's job to provide psychological social support to the girls.