In South Africa, many underprivileged school girls miss school during their periods because they do not have sanitary pads.
The lack of access to sanitary pads for school girls who are financially disadvantaged touched the hearts of students in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) and prompted them to step in and assist.
On 27 May 2022, The [email protected] and [email protected] donated over 400 packs of sanitary pads in aid of underprivileged school girls at Tswaing Secondary School in Winterveld, Pretoria.
The donation came following a discussion with one of the teachers at the school who mentioned that the majority of the school girls did not have access to sanitary products. According to Courtney Smith, Chairperson of [email protected], another teacher said the lack of access became apparent when the school’s drainage system was blocked with newspapers, which the girls were using as an alternative to sanitary pads. The problem still persists as the school’s drainage needs to be unblocked every few months. The donation will also help prevent the blockage.
Gloria Khoza, Commercii’s Outreach Officer and former learner at Tswaing Secondary School who was amongst the EMS students who delivered the donation, said she realised there was a huge need for sanitary pads at schools in Winterveld after she witnessed an underprivileged girl being humiliated for using tissue as a sanitary pad.
Courtney Smith and Tsepo Ponoane, Commercii members
“It happened right in front of my eyes, seeing a school girl rolling tissue to use as a pad and was laughed at by her fellow school girls. This resulted in the learner missing school for days and being behind with school work because she was scared to face the same humiliation she had experienced. After a teacher assisted her with one pack of sanitary pads, many started opening up and reaching out to her for help, but unfortunately, the teacher could not assist everyone,” says Khoza.
She adds that the pad donation will restore the dignity of the school girls in need of sanitary pads and prevent the mockery they experience when using clothes or tissue paper, and subsequently improve their vaginal hygiene.
The pad drive is an outreach initiative, which not only seeks to make sanitary pads accessible to underprivileged girls, but also aims to enable success so that school girls can continue with their studies without having to miss school due to lack of sanitary pads or fear of humiliation.
“We believe that all girls should have access to basic sanitary products and they should not have to miss school due to the lack of basic necessities. We sometimes forget how privileged we are to be able to carry on with our daily lives because we have access to sanitary products, while many underprivileged girls miss days of school because of something that they have no control over,” says Smith.
Empathy and acts of kindness can have a positive impact on society, says Smith, who believes that “in order to see change in communities, you have to start making those changes yourself”.
Donations for the pad drive came from the two sub-houses. The School of Public Management and Administration doubled the sanitary products the students had collected after learning about the initiative. Staff from the Department of Taxation also donated towards the initiative.
The students also used the visit as an opportunity to talk to the girls about offerings in the Faculty and application closing dates.