Cape Town launches pilot project to supply sanitary towels to keep girls in school
It is an age old problem - even President Jacob Zuma has highlighted it.
Girls forced to miss out on school when they menstruate because they cannot afford sanitary towels. Organisations and even celebrities are trying to address the indignity.
But the City of Cape Town has just launched a pilot project which may be the silver bullet. Distributing reusable, washable cloth sanitary towels.
The city's health directorate and various NGOs have joined forces to start a teenage health initiative last week. Hundreds of children will be reached in just one sub-district. They will raise awareness about reproductive health and family planning but the primary focus will be the distribution of the pads.
"So, what this partnership aims to do is to test whether we can build a sustainable programme by distributing washable cloth pads to address the issue of female learners missing school or even dropping out because they are not equipped to manage their menstruation.
"Secondly, we want to test the ability to run this campaign in conjunction with sexual health education and awareness, which City Health will drive as part of our overall strategy to curb teen pregnancy.
"Ultimately we want to get more young people to access the reproductive health services available to them, which is why we thought that this project could be a worthwhile exercise,'' said Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.
Dr Michele Youngleson said a similar project was started in the Eastern Cape and that resulted in the reduction of absenteeism. But said Mamkeli disposable pads were used and this is not sustainable in the long run.
Officials will impress on schools the need to provide bins for soiled pads and ablution facilities for girls.
Each girl will receive a pack which include pads, panties, a waterproof bag, instruction on using and looking after the pads as well as information about puberty.
The pads are the brainchild of Sue Barnes who created it in response to a ''request for the donation of washable sanitary pads and panties for the underprivileged'' according to their website.