In an effort to restore the confidence and dignity of many young girls who do not attend school during their menstrual cycle because they do not have sanitary towels, Democratic Alliance (DA) PR councillor and a non-governmental organisation donated 300 packs of sanitary towels to two Khayelitsha schools on Tuesday January 17.
The initiative was aimed at helping the schools alleviate absenteeism, restore dignity and promote healthy hygiene.
Teachers and pupils at Ludwe Ngamlana Primary School and Siphamandla High School, both in Kuyasa, applauded the initiative.
DA PR councillor Thulani Sitemele, who is the driving force behind the donation drive, said he felt the urge to lend a helping hand after he realised that men were not showing support to this plight faced by young girls.
He then called on men to get involved and while many people across the country spent their festive season holidays at the beach with their loved ones, he embarked on a fundraising drive, collecting money from his relatives and local business people to buy the sanitary towels.
He said the reality was that some pupils resorted to using unhygienic methods like washing cloths and toilet paper which sometimes caused bacterial infections, because they could not afford to buy sanitary towels.
Mr Stemele stressed that the reality of a girl dropping out of school because she did not have sanitary towels may sound far -fetched to many, but it does happen.
He called on government to distribute sanitary towels to girls for free and he believed that women should not have to pay for a necessity. “If the government can afford to distribute condoms for free, why should not then sanitary towels be distributed for free. I know that this might be a drop in the ocean but at least one or two children won’t skip classes for a day or two. We need to prioritise this issue and we need to work as a collective because these are our sisters and daughters. They should not feel embarrassed about something that is natural.”
He promised that for the duration of his five-year tenure as PR councillor in the area, he would work tireless to ensure that this was not a once-off donation.
Upon receiving the donation, principal of Siphamandla High School, Andile Magadla, expressed his sincere appreciation, saying he felt that a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders.
At many township schools, he said, girls stayed away from school during their period because they did not have sanitary towels and at his school, teachers had even resorted to buying pads for the girls.
He said they understand that many children come from poor families and so it was difficult for them to buy sanitary towels.
“I appreciate what you have done for the school and this is a bold step toward reshaping the future of the girl child. We urge you to continue doing the great work. We hope that this is the beginning of great things to happen,” he said.
Ndumie Fundi, director of Luleki Sizwe, an NGO which works to prevent hate crimes against lesbian, bi-sexual and transsexual women, said they decided to be part of this campaign because it played a vital role in the lives of girls . She said they hoped to not only donate the sanitary towels but also to run school programmes to help the pupils make informed decisions about their futures.
Grade 10 pupil Thimna Magam, 15, said she was grateful for the donation and thanked the donors. Explaining how difficult it was for girls to come to school without sanitary towels during their menstrual cycle, she said: “You cannot come to school when you don’t feel comfortable.”