Despite sanitary pads recently being added to the list of VAT zero-rated goods, the majority of girls in South Africa continue to miss up to five days of school each month, due to lack of access to these essential items. So until government is able to provide free sanitary products to women and girls from poorer communities, the solution will remain in the hands of NGO’s and corporate sponsors such as Soutpan Solar Power, located in the Vivo area.
Working with a trained nurse, who manages the programme’s implementation, this solar farm funds the distribution of sanitary towels to girls from poor families as well as providing reproductive health education.
The programme kicked off in 2015, in the Bahananwa Circuit, an area situated in the Blouberg Local Municipality that is home to 28 primary and 19 secondary schools. So far, this initiative has reached 8520 learners, supplying them with sanitary towels.
“Besides the cost of pads or tampons, pervasive stigma and taboos surrounding menstruation also keep girls from attending school, impacting thousands of girls in this area, each month,” said Harrisinah Theka, Economic Development Officer for Soutpan Solar Power.
The South African Human Rights Commission recently reported that the lack of access to sanitary towels not only has adverse effects on our country’s girl’s school attendance but it also has a ripple effect on the economic development of communities. It is not just the girls and women who benefit from having proper menstrual hygiene, the broader society and national economies can profit from better menstruation management.
This socio-economic development programme is driven by that belief, that communities won’t be able to thrive if girl-learners are left behind, which is why this initiative will continue to grow.
“We strongly believe that a country that is educated is a country that will prosper, so in supporting these young girls, we can help restore their confidence and give them fair access to education as it is a key enabler to transform lives, which is why we are so passionate about this initiative,” concluded Theka.
Schools included in this programme are: Thabanstho Primary, Bodiela Primary, Kgokonyane Primary, Madikweng Secondary, Mmalotlo Secondary, Seobi Primary, Mpatapata Secondary, Mabetwa Primary, Mmakgomosheu Primary, Mmaratha Primary, Monyesebodu Primary, Schoengesegt Secondary, Matthew Phosa Secondary, Bothanang Primary, Kgebetli Primary School, Mokumuru Primary, Ramotshabi Secondary, Mmamadisha Primary School.