Sanitary wear in short supply for school girls

05 July 2016 - 09:28 By SHAUN SMILLIE

As many as eight out of 10 Gauteng schoolgirls do not have regular access to sanitary products at school, and one in three miss class when they have their periods. This is what nongovernmental organisation Equal Education has found in a survey of 232 girls in schools in three Gauteng districts.Equal Education wants the government to provide free feminine hygiene products to girls of school-going age across the country, and they are not the only organisation saying so.The purpose of the project, explained Equal Education's Gauteng head, Zandile Ngubeni, is to audit the impact of local government's programme of providing dignity packs, containing sanitary products, to school pupils.Ngubeni said: "We would like the government to curb the problem of girls missing out on school because of their periods by providing feminine hygiene products in township and rural schools."But it is not just the lack of sanitary wear that is stopping girls from going to school. Equal Education has also found that most of the girls are absent because of headaches, cramps and nausea, which are not provided for in the dignity packs.South Africa is not alone - Unicef estimates that 10% of girls in Africa miss school because of menstruation.Currently there is no formal programme by national or local government to supply sanitary products.Department of Social Development spokesman Lumka Oliphant said that sanitary products were distributed at a provincial level .Besides finding that girls did not have regular access to menstruation products at school, many also said they had no access to these products at home.Ngubeni said: "Of the girls surveyed, eight out of 10 had no sense of what was happening to their bodies at the onset of menstruation."Nongovernmental organisations Dignity Dreams and Subz Pads and Panties believe the best solution to dealing with girls missing school because of menstruation is to provide washable and reusable sanitary pads.Dignity Dreams provides six reusable sanitary pads at a cost of R130. According to project administrator Lucille Herbst, these reusable pads can last three years.

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