Cape Town - A collective movement between Gauteng-based Team Free Sanitary Pads, and Cape-Town-based FemConnect, is joining forces to spearhead a peaceful protest this Friday to call on the government to take urgent action and completely eradicate period poverty.
With a petition that has more than 28 000 signatures, protesters will include members of society and representatives from other feminine hygiene and menstrual rights groups who will hand over the petition to the government, demanding that South Africa follow suit and recognise menstrual rights into law.
Founder and CEO of FemConnect, Asonele Kotu, said that not having the right hygiene products for one's period has a huge impact on a woman’s mental health and self-esteem because in many households, young girls unable to afford menstrual products miss out on school due to period shaming.
“It is shocking that even in 2022, more than seven million South African women and young girls are being severely hindered, almost punished, due to a natural biological process - their period. Not having the right hygiene products for your period has a huge impact on a woman’s mental health and self-esteem.
“In many households, young girls unable to afford menstrual products miss out on school due to period shaming, and some even put their life in danger by using leaves or barks of trees to manage their period. This is simply not acceptable. Furthermore, we see the effects on university students and working-class menstruates. This is not just a girl-child issue. It's a societal issue, ” said Kotu.
Nokuzola Ndwandwe, the founding director of the march, added that currently, there's no regulation in South Africa where the National Government oversees the Provincial Government, which means Provincial Departments are often left to decide for themselves on the direction of Menstrual Health, and according to Ndwandwe, there is a need for a Menstrual Rights Law to develop and implement National Policies together with Provincial Policies in a coherent manner on Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management.
“Attempts to change things have included scrapping VAT on period products in 2018 and then again in 2020 due to tireless mobilising. In 2020, the former Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni heeded the organisation's calls together with Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane from the Department of Women, Youth and Persons living with disabilities in his budget speech. Tito Mboweni also made further financial provisions to provide free menstrual products in schools for the financial years 2021 to 2023.
“While this is progress, our call is for free menstrual products for all because period poverty does not discriminate. The Menstrual Rights Law calls for fixed, determinable amounts from National Treasury Budgets to be allocated indefinitely towards Menstrual Health and Rights. We also call for transparency reports on the spending of funds for menstrual Health to see where the funding is going per the budget for period poverty in South Africa,” said Ndwandwe.
Some of the organisations joining the march will include Unicef UWC, University of Cape Town and the Human Nature Project, to name a few.
Kotu added that the only way to ensure women’s basic rights are both protected and prioritised is to have them prescribed into law.
“We believe a menstrual rights law would form a solid foundation for transformative policy in our country. Solving period poverty encompasses all socio-economic spheres -from developing a menstrual health framework in education to fostering economic, female empowerment in business and industry,” said Kotu.
Members of the public are invited to join either physically or participate via social media. The meeting point for the Cape Town march will be at 10 Darling Street Parking, Hanover Street (Next to CPUT) at 10am on Friday.