LIFE-CHANGING. These girls won't have to miss school monthly now as they have been given reusable pads which last for five years.

Hundreds of young girls from Orlando in Soweto have received reusable sanitary pads and now they won’t have to miss school.
The pads were handed out as part of donations from a partnership between various companies in Gauteng following an outcry from women parliamentarians against the Treasury for not exempting sanitary pads from VAT.

In May, the politicians told the Treasury’s chief director of tax policy Yanga Mputa they wanted a gender-sensitive budget and that it was not due to any fault of their own that they menstruated monthly.

Acting chairperson of the caucus Nthabiseng Khunou told the Treasury that VAT must be removed from sanitary towels. According to research, many girls in Africa miss three to five days of school each month because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

Many girls eventually end up dropping out of school altogether.

Some arms of government are trying to mitigate the situation and in KwaZulu-Natal female pupils get pads free, but that project is being abused to enrich those involved, which Minister of Small Businesses Development Lindiwe Zulu admitted to Parliament.

“The issue of production of sanitary pads has become a contested, money-making scheme.

“That’s just the bottom line, because there are many SMMEs (small, medium and micro-sized enterprises), co-operatives and people who ask our department to fund them to get the machine that makes the sanitary pads.

“We must just wake up to that reality - that everything that comes, people will be looking to make money out of it. That’s the reality of where we are.”

While that battle rages on in Parliament, EDS Projects, Power Foods and Paracon, the ICT Resourcing Division of Adcorp Professional Services and Palesa Pads, have joined hands to assist iKageng, a community-based organisation that helps orphaned and vulnerable children in and around Soweto with food and dignity packs.

EDS Projects’ Julie Davies described the day they organised an educational outing that included fun for the children from the orphanage. They also learnt about their menstrual cycles and how to deal with body changes.

Regarding the packs that were handed out, she said: “They consisted of high quality, reusable pads which can be washed and used again.

“The girls were taught how their menstrual cycles work and how best to utilise the pads.

“You can use them for a couple of hours, wash them and put them back in your bag to use at a later stage when you need them.

“Their life span is years, they can actually last the user for as many years as she needs to use them. They reduce the costs of pads drastically,” said Davies.

Palesa Reusable Pads can be used for up to five years for less than 20% of the cost of disposable pads. The company said that for many families, basic survival is a priority and there isn’t enough money in the budget to buy pads every month.

“Palesa Reusable Sanitary Pads provide a sustainable solution for up to five years, which is a girl’s high school career. Palesa Pads can be used by women too.

“The tremendous savings on sanitary products contribute to the financial wellbeing of their families,” the company said.

Davies appealed to other companies to embark on similar initiatives to give the less fortunate something to smile about. “These kind of packs give the recipients pride and dignity. They are also able to actively participate in day to day activities,” she said.

The Sunday Independent