Let’s talk menstruation ... Shane Titana using golf to give young girls dignity

Pearl Valley assistant golf operations manager Shane Titana is changing perceptions around menstruation. Picture: Supplied

Pearl Valley assistant golf operations manager Shane Titana is changing perceptions around menstruation. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 24, 2024


Shane Titana works as the assistant golf operations manager at Pearl Valley, one of South Africa’s most pristine and exclusive golf estates.

This championship golf course is situated about halfway between the Winelands towns of Paarl and Franschhoek. Some call that stretch of road “millionaires mile”, where many of South Africa’s rich and famous reside.

On a regular Wednesday you may find a the odd Hollywood A-lister, a Springbok rugby star or even a Proteas cricketer in the clubhouse enjoying the scenery with a glass of wine after a round of golf.

Everyone and their mother wants to play the Jack Nicklaus designed “Pearl”.

But Pearl Valley and its tranquil surrounds are far removed from the community where Titana hails from, where the worst thing that can happen to you is not losing your R75 Titlest Pro-V1 golf ball in the water.

The township of Mbekweni, which sits on the same road but in the opposite part of town between Paarl and Wellington, is made up of a poor community where R75 needs to feed a family for a few days ... sometimes even a week.

Before working at Pearl Valley, Titana worked overseas at the Yas Links Golf Course in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It’s one of the stops on the DP World Tour, formally known as the European Tour.

It’s where he saw what difference you can make in people lives by giving back.

After returning to South Africa, Titana went to the principle of the Desmond Mpilo Tutu High School in Mbekweni with a desire in his heart to uplift his community.

“My initial idea was to revamp their toilets. I then had the opportunity to speak to the kids, with the boys talking about the need for sports equipment,” Titana said.

The girls, however, had a much more “basic” request, which made Titana rather uncomfortable at the time...

“The girls just asked about sanitary pads, and I was like ‘I’m not going there, I’m definitely not going there as a guy. A black guy. A Xhosa guy ... that’s an area where we don’t go,” he said.

“But that was the need and I couldn’t ignore it, so I got my cousins together and our first donation to the school was about 362 sanitary pads.

“We took some pictures, put it on Facebook, got a few likes and we said we we’re done. But as time went by, the need became difficult to ignore. Kids would see us in the street and ask for sanitary pads.

“We realised this is something quite serious and went back towards the end of the school year and donated another 280 or so sanitary pads.”

But first, Titana had to be educated about menstruation and sanitary pads. Like he mentions, the subject is rather taboo, not only in Xhosa men’s culture, but for most men in South Africa.

Titana got his cousin Ashiphe Kante involved and they started the Human Nature Community project.

Ashiphe Kante has partnered with her cousin Shane Titana in the Human Nature Community project. Picture: Supplied

“As a man, I didn’t know a thing about menstruation,” Titana said.

“You can’t talk about something you know nothing about. I was just blown away, because as a man you have pre-conceived ideas about it.”

Getting over the cultural barrier was easier for Titana with more knowledge about menstruation. However, he was judged for the way he wanted to give back to his community.

“People were saying crazy things to me. ‘You’re a guy ... are you gay?’. But why is it okay to talk to boys about sex and condoms are free, but it’s taboo to talk about menstruation?” Titana asked

“It (menstruation) needs to be educated to boys as well, because you may have a daughter one day and then be able to know what they go through and also help them understand what’s going on with their bodies.”

Almost five years on from that first the first delivery, Titana and the Human Nature Foundation have donated about 100 000 sanitary pads to schools in the Cape Winelands. They have also renovated toilets, bought school uniforms, shoes and started nutritional programs at some schools.

But all of that would not be possible without Titana’s affiliation with Pearl Valley, the sports people and residents who have helped to contribute to the foundation.

“Nelson Mandela always mentioned sport as a vehicle for change,” said Titana.

Shane and Ashiphe have also donated school shoes to various schools in the Winelands.

“Now you have to remember, a pristine championship golf estate such as Pearl Valley ... the type of people who are in and around it don’t have these problems.

“For them a sanitary pad is the norm, but when you explain the struggles of young girls out there it blows their mind.

“There are kids who literally skip school for a week because of their period and because they don’t want to be embarrassed.

“We are trying to give them dignity. Just because you have nothing, doesn’t mean your dignity must be taken away once a month. And the people who contribute to our cause understand that and we’re grateful.

“They say it takes a village to raise a kid, and we all have the responsibility to look after each other,” Titana added.