Pretoria - Given the inequalities in large parts of South African society, young girls are hit hard and continue to miss large chunks of school every month owing to a lack of sanitary products.
While society has been asked to help, Boitumelo Thage has answered the call of young girls who miss school because of menstruation.
In 2019, the published author, activist for students and campaigner against gender-based violence launched an initiative to target the distribution of 2 000 sanitary pads.
She runs a campaign through her NPO A Second Chance.
She said the move was prompted by the many young girls across the country who continued to miss school due to not having sanitary products.
“As clichéd as it sounds, not enough is being done about this problem, and this initiative is an attempt to bring society in on a long-standing conversation as it relates to period poverty and menstrual health,” she said.
The 25 year old said after achieving their goal to provide sanitary towels in 2019, the team decided to go bigger because the fight against “period poverty” was also big.
They had to do something to benefit young girls, she said.
“We needed to run a campaign bigger and better, we need to reach and impact the lives of as many young girls as possible.
“The sanitary towels are accompanied by mentorship and intentional grooming, and we strive to create a sisterhood bond.”
Thage and her team strongly believe that young girls must be given menstrual health education from primary school to avoid them missing school days because of not having sanitary towels.
“In an ideal world, young girls should be given sanitary towels for free at school as part of the stationery packs they are given. It has also been proven through research that in 2019, over 3 million girls missed school because of the pain they underwent during their periods, as well as due to the fact that they could not afford to buy sanitary towels.”
And young girls who missed school once a month greatly contributed to the gender inequality in the country, and this was a conversation not addressed enough, she said.
Given how painful menstruation could be, Thage said they believed young girls needed to be given pain medication and coping mechanisms.
“We need to de-stigmatise menstruation and consistently remind girls that nothing is wrong – it is normal, and we must provide free sanitary pads, too.”
Thage said they wanted to collaborate with an NPO called the Keamogestwe Foundation to get more people involved to reach more people, and she hoped society and businesses would step up and chip in.