Ridding Africa of period poverty one step at a time
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By Lucky Masilela
On July 20, the Thuma Foundation tweeted: “Congratulations to Prof. Thuli Madonsela and the Trek4Mandela2021 Team for summiting Mount Kilimanjaro! You too can play your part in ending period poverty by donating towards the Imbumba Foundation’s Caring4Girls initiative”.
The tweet brought to an end an anxious spell over whether or not the team would make it to Africa’s highest point.
Madonsela herself followed up with her own tweet on Monday July 26 confirming that she had made it to the top and back to mark Mandela Day in a quest we at ZACR and dotAfrica were proud to sponsor this year. The climb sustained the theme originated by our partner in hosting the Trek4Mandela2021, Imbumba Foundation.
The campaign annually brings together inspired and inspirational figures from all walks of life to raise funds for the Foundation’s Caring4Girls programme.
The programme aims to minimise the negative impact of menstrual challenges on girls’ education.
The Foundation aimed to contribute to the provision of sanitary care products to 100 000 girl learners from each of the 9 South African provinces, and 100,000 from Tanzania, the Kingdom of eSwatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.
A recent study by Stellenbosch University found that 30 percent of South African girls miss school during their menstruation for lack of sanitary products, something referred to as period poverty. It affects 10 percent of girls in Africa according to ActionAid.
As observed by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said during his 2020 Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture that Covid-19 was shining a spotlight of injustice, laying “bare risks we have ignored for decades: inadequate health systems; gaps in social protection; structural inequalities; environmental degradation; the climate crisis”. He also added that “while we are all floating on the same sea, it is clear that some are in superyachts while others are clinging to drifting debris”.
This is the reason for our excitement at ZA Central Registry (ZACR ) and dotAfrica for having been part of this year’s Trek4Mandela campaign.
We are also grateful that unlike in 2019 at her first attempt when she had a health scare, the former Public Protector summitted Kilimanjaro without any incident.
Iconic South Africans like her add gravitas to our collective efforts to help those who are “clinging to drifting debris”.
These include dotAfrica’s beneficiaries of this year’s Trek4Mandela challenge, learners at the Chesterville Secondary School in Durban, who received their sanitary goodies on Mandela Day.
A teacher at the school, Busi Mbhele, said: “The intervention by dotAfrica and Imbumba Foundation enables us to have sanitary towels in storage to help up to 700 girl learners stay in school, because sometimes menstruation can be too embarrassing for girls, even leading to them staying away from school”.
Madonsela and Sibusiso Vilane led the charge not only to overcome altitude. They personified Madiba’s essence: the love for children and the lifelong fight for justice.
By keeping girl learners in school, programmes like Caring4Girls help to nip gender inequality in the bud. Gender inequality persists into adulthood, not only in developing countries. The Fifth Report of Session 2019-2021 by the UK’s House of Commons found that “women were more likely than men to work part-time”, making up the 58-percent majority of those in involuntary part-time employment. Also, “lowly paid women were more likely than lowly paid men to remain stuck in lowly paid jobs”.
Unesco’s March 2020 estimates were that Covid-19 school closures locked out over 89 percent of the world’s student population. This disruption affected young women more, because they were “likely to be pulled out of school first to compensate for increased care and domestic work at home” or “child marriage and other forms of violence as families find ways to alleviate economic burdens”.
Our support for Trek4Mandela is therefore not just a Mandela Day intervention, but a wholesale investment in creating a better life for all by fighting gender inequality.
Lucky Masilela is the CEO of ZA Central Registry.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Star or Independent Media.