”We are our own superheroes ”
By: Ziseko Geza
When you think of yourself at 20yrs, images of an over tired varsity student who just wants to pass second year, look good and have fun finding yourself, this is not the case with Asanda Mtshabe a 20year old who is one of the founders of #MindTheRed;an initiative that seeks to balance the gender scales for young girls in the rural Transkei schools in and around Mthatha.
#MindTheGap crew interacting with Eastern Cape pupils.
An idea among friends who saw the project through its birthing process in 2016, distributing over 1000 pads to students of surrounding villages and schools in rural settlements around the Mthatha area, the idea was inspired by having a few girls disclose that they used cloths and other unhygienic materials during their menstrual cycle and the health issues that come with using that method, Asanda stated how hard it was in the beginning hearing influential women in these rural communities state that they too used these methods and are fine, the girls can just stay home for the cycle period and were reluctant to accept the organization’s help.
Generous donations of shoppers in the form of sanitary towels put into good use.
The girls collect the donated sanitary pads during holidays at local shopping malls in Mthatha, solely dependent on random donations from holiday shoppers, as they have schools in different cities during the year, they only recently received their NPO certification and now allow volunteers from local High Schools, this initiative comes after the much debated condom distribution in high schools debate with the staggering 60% contribution the youth has to new HIV/Aids infections it makes sense why the Eastern Cape spent R17m on condoms last year but these girls feel that the core issues are not being dealt with, that being open conversations about the respective sexes reproductive health and sexuality.
Pupils receiving sanitary towels from team #MindTheRed as led by Asanda Mtshabe.
3 out of 5 girls in Quartile 1 schools miss an average of 5 days a month due to the menstrual cycle, this means that they miss an average of 2 months worth of school that they do not recover from academically, this is the logic that drew Asanda, an A student in her right who believes the only way to uplift communities is focusing on making the basic need available to those who need it the most.
To these young ladies this initiative is an answer to the cry of many young girls who suffer in a patriarchal society that sees this practice as a norm,they challenge the women in these
societies by holding short talks on the harms of using cloths and other materials, reproductive health and periods, in the attempt to desensitize menstruation and thus minding the red.
Cheerful recepients of the much needed sanitary towels as donated by the #MindTheRed initiative.
With the year just starting and resolutions being made this group of young women are hoping to inspire more and more girls to question their societal norms and seek to better the lives of those in need. We need to learn that we are our own heroes in a patriarchal society.
After researching on the Activate Leadership platform these 4 ladies are ready to take their initiative to the rest of the Eastern Cape and become active change drivers in the rural communities the Eastern Cape is made up of.