CAPE TOWN – The Department of Social Development in the Western Cape has officially launched its Sanitary Dignity Project in the province.
DSD MEC Sharna Fernandez said the launch was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DSD collaborated with other provincial government departments such as Health, Public Works and Education.
The first phase of delivery on Friday, September 18, saw more than 1.9 million sanitary pads distributed to 90,000 female pupils in 221 schools across the province.
“I am pleased that thousands of female pupils are being provided with sanitary resources that are essential to their well-being and dignity.
“Despite progress being made in achieving gender equity in South African society at large, it is female pupils who remain the most discriminated against in accessing education, and within education systems,” Fernandez said.
She said menstrual hygiene had only been mentioned in a limited way through ambiguous allusions or brief references that failed to develop a cohesive approach.
She said this was mainly due to the taboo surrounding menstruation, in part a legacy of a patriarchal culture and the disempowerment of women living in poverty.
Fernandez said more work was needed to fully understand this taboo, break the silence and work towards the realisations of women’s rights and an understanding of gender equality that enables women to succeed.
“Following an analysis of 2016–2018 data regarding school attendance and retention rates of female learners from Grades 4 to12, schools in quintiles 1 to 5 were identified to participate in the programme.
“These schools include no-fee-paying schools and fee-charging schools. It was decided that the project should prioritise schools in rural areas and include special-needs schools where the need is greatest,” Fernandez said.
She said the programme would be enhanced by the inclusion of this topic in the life orientation school subject programme offered by the Department of Education.
“Although there is insufficient data to directly confirm reasons for absenteeism, it is likely that female pupils’ dignity and suffering are impacted by a lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources.
“We believe that initiatives such as the Sanitary Dignity Project are not only crucial to restoring the dignity of many indigent female pupils, but also serve to address undue hardships and other educational barriers female pupils face in schools,” Fernandez said.
She said this was the first time the department had embarked on such a project and all feedback was welcome with regard to progress, challenges, experiences or compliments.
Fernandez thanked all the individuals and organisations who continue to donate the sanitary pads.
African News Agency