If there’s one thing all South Africans can give a thumbs up to anytime, it’s free sanitary pads for impoverished schoolgirls.
It’s been a slap in the face of the country, for years, seeing female pupils miss out on school because they cannot afford sanitary pads.
It is estimated that millions of South African schoolgirls aged between 13 and 19 miss one week of school every month due to a lack of sanitary pads.
Of course, this explains why the issue gained increasing attention last year. In April 2016, members of Parliament called on the government to remove VAT on sanitary pads, as part of the measure to enhance accessibility to pads.
Earlier this week, schoolgirls were reassured that sanitary pads challenges will soon, be a thing of the past.
According to a circular from the KwaZulu-Natal education department, plans are on the ground to distribute packs of sanitary pads to 2,992 schools.
The distribution is part of the Care4Girls programme, an initiative which focuses on providing succour to impoverished and rural schools.
The first pack of the free sanitary pads were reportedly distributed in January. As planned, schoolgirls in lower income communities – especially pupils in grades 4 to 12 – will receive a pack of pads from their school official each month.
The free sanitary pads, as gathered, would last each girl six months.
The spokesperson for KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mthethwa explained further: “We could have given the girls sanitary pads that would have lasted them a year but we have decided to distribute packs that would last only six months.
This is because we don’t want to have a situation where there is a temptation from the girls and officials to sell them [the pads].”
The department’s decision to use some of its budgets to distribute the pads to schools has been welcomed by children’s rights organisations, teachers’ unions, medical experts and other stakeholders.
Most respondents said the gesture will not only ensure that girls have equal access to education but also that their dignity is restored.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union and the National Teachers Union commended the move, saying it would avail boys and girls an equal chance at succeeding in their educational journey.
Sanitary Pad Hero
As earlier stated, sanitary pad challenges facing schoolgirls received much attention last year.
It was found that some girls make use of unhygienic alternatives to sanitary pads, such as newspaper or even sand and leaves, which puts them at a huge risk of infection.
Last year, South Africa’s Gugu Zulu died while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for girls who miss out on school because they cannot afford sanitary pads.
To the KZN education department, BuzzSouthAfrica says keep doing the good work!