Statistics vary when highlighting the number of young girls whose lack of access to sanitary pads lead them to missing school and therefore receiving a different standard of education to their male counterparts. According to UNICEF 1 in 10 school-age African girls do not attend school during menstruation, or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools. . Others, such as those whose protest interrupted Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi at the International AIDS conference say that “7 million girls” miss school each month because they don’t have access to or money for sanitary products.
The statistics are staggering and Activators across the country believe that change begins with them. They know that girls need all the support possible to stay in school and they are dedicated to assisting in the best way they can.
Activator Karabo Monatisi is proving that through active citizenship, young women across the Western Cape can attain the same level of education as their male counterparts and that nothing should hinder their journey to success, especially not their monthly menstruation.
“A few years ago I was encouraged by a story I read on Ground Up about a girl who didn’t have money for pads and had to use rags and newspaper. I realised that I needed to start making a change. We did research within the community on why girls were dropping out of school and found out that for many of them it was because of their menstruation. They would be too embarrassed to go to school because they simply could not afford sanitary pads”, says Karabo.
32-year-old Karabo from the Western Cape then launched the Sanitary Pad Campaign in 2013. Since then, the movement has collected and distributed close to 2200 sanitary packs to learners, some of which were distributed to Treatment Action Campaign members and to youth at the Site-B Youth Clinic.
“Since 2013, we have reached 800 young women, excluding the TAC and Site-B Youth Clinic youth.”
The Sanitary Pad Campaign is self-funded and collects sanitary pads through connecting with other youth who are motivated to preserve the dignity of young women.
Supporters like the University of Cape Town students who reside at the Graca Machel Hall Residence. Niyanda Maseti, the Social Outreach Representative at the residence reached out to Karabo and the campaign’s team via email saying that they had started a pad drive in their residence and they found the Sanitary Pad Campaign online and added that they were inspired by their commitment.
“…the impact you have in the society made me decide to donate these pads to your campaign.”
Karabo says that the impact of the Sanitary Pads Campaign does not end by donating pads to youth in need, but also to shift perceptions and how older and younger men talk about the issue of menstruation.
“We also work with young people and have separate round table discussions with girls and boys and talk about issues affecting them; health issues like menstruation and stereotypes. With boys we make them understand why girls have to go through the menstruation process. We then put the two groups together so that they can engage with each other. We want the youth to influence policymakers and ensure that pads are available in schools like condoms are.”
As commendable as the actions of Karabo and the Sanitary Pads Campaign members are, their enthusiasm and dedication to the upliftment of young women is echoed nationally through the ACTIVATE! network.
Fellow Activator from the Northern Cape, 27-year-old Pelonomi Tetem is also committed to change from within.
Currently volunteering at Kgatelopele Youth Information Centre, Pelonomi, says that she was originally driven to collect sanitary pads in her area after working with youth in the area.
“I live in Daniëlskuil, a town in the Northern Cape and most of the youth I feel don’t know their purpose. I want to give them, especially the young girls in my area, the opportunity to learn more about themselves. As a field worker at a youth centre in my community I assist them in mobilising youth to come to the youth centre where we host dialogues and workshops regarding issues that affect them. We also work in schools with personal development, and get sanitary pad donations.”
Activator, Matseleng Freda Moseneke from Rustenburg, launched Let’s Do It For The Girls campaign that focuses on one-on-one facilitations with Grade 6 and 7 youth at primary schools, focusing on sexual health, the importance of making good decisions, and any issues or hardships they are facing in their lives. Freda also hosts a sanitary pad drive across her community and then donates what she collects by reaching out to schools and asking them which pupils don’t have parents or are really struggling financially.
“Since launching the campaign we have reached out to close to 100 youth from Rustenburg and surrounding areas. Our aim is to bring back the dignity and to ensure that girls receive the same level of education as boys.”
To contribute, please contact:
- Karabo Monatisi – 074 930 7200
- Pelonomi Tetem – 071 930 5348
- Matseleng Freda Moseneke 071 000 4211