A member of the NGO Caring4Girls takes a picture of the Diepsloot West Secondary School choir as they perform after the hand over of four months worth of sanitary pads to all the girl pupils at the school. Picture: Kevin Ritchie
Johannesburg - There were excited screams at Diepkloof West Secondary School on Friday as more than 660 schoolgirls received comfort packs from the Imbumba Foundation.

The foundation runs the Caring4Girls campaign, a project to ensure that no girl-child misses school because of her monthly period.

Studies show that teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 18 living in poverty can lose up to a fifth of their high school careers through the taboo associated with menstruation - and no access to sanitary towels.

Last year, the campaign, founded by social entrepreneur Richard Mabaso, ensured that 146 000 girls, predominantly in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, did not miss a single day's schooling.

Read: One less mountain to climb for young girls

As Mabaso told the shocked pupils, his organisation had come across desperate girls trying to use tissues and newspapers, and in Zimbabwe, in some instances, even cow dung, to staunch their menstrual bleeding.

The campaign is dependent upon the donation of sanitary pads raised by Dis-Chem’s Million Comforts drive and corporate sponsorships of schools.

Yesterday, AngloGold Ashanti committed to sponsoring 666 girls at Diepkloof West Secondary School with a year’s supply of sanitary pads at a cost of R360000. Each girl received a comfort pack of four months’ supply of pads, an education booklet on menstruation and a poem printed in the form of a bookmark to affirm not just their identity, but also their self-worth.

As Anglo Gold Ashanti’s Rea Baitshenyetsi told the girls: “There are many reasons why a girl-child can miss school, but menstruation should never be one of them.”

Tebatso Moloto, a matric pupil, and Katlego Kosalatso, in Grade 11, performed the poem, I have a name: “I was not put on this earth to be invisible; I was not born to be denied; I was not given life only to belong to someone else; I belong to me."

More than 660 girl pupils at Diepsloot West Secondary School, to be sponsored sanitary pads for this year, receive their comfort pack and first four months’ supply. Picture: Kevin Ritchie

“This is the moment when being a girl became my strength, my salvation, not my pain,” they told them.

Gauteng Education Department deputy director-general Vuyani Mpofu said boys had to support their female classmates. “This is a biological issue, it’s not just a girl issue, it’s a boy issue too. The boys have to protect the girls, not laugh at them when they have their period.”

The need to provide sanitary pads to schools couldn't be left to government alone, because there simply wasn’t enough money, said Mpofu.

His last words were for the girls to understand that being able to menstruate meant they were sexually mature and needed to protect themselves. “Books before boys as boys breed babies,” he led them in their chant. “Wait for the right time, get first things first, education, education, education.”

To know more about Caring4Girls or sponsor the programme, call Nkateko Mabale on 011 883 0379 or 066 214 2520

Saturday Star