Sanitary pad project helps teenagers

Man takes initiative on menstruation


A POLICE officer for the past 11 years, and self-employed businessman, Thembalethu Tele wants girls to have access to free sanitary pads in schools around the Ndlamble area.

Tele was surprised when he learned how difficult it was for his daughter to talk about menstruation, but when she started her monthly cycle, she left a note on her mother’s bed informing her of the fact.

If she found it so difficult to talk to her parents who are concerned and actively involved in her life, Tele said, how much more difficult is it for girls who are orphans, foster kids or grandchildren to speak to their guardians about menstruation?

Menstruation is seldom spoken about even in affluent homes and so it is no surprise that it becomes a thing of dread for many poor girls whose families are obliged to spend their money on food before sanitary pads.

This is a big problem because sanitary pads are so expensive. It is for this reason that Wits University students recently petitioned the administration for free sanitary pads and there was a similar drive at the University of Johannesburg.

It is also a social problem because if so many girls miss school. One estimate is that seven million school girls in South Africa miss up to four days a month or 40 days a year. Their schooling is adversely affected and ultimately this affects the matric pass rate.

It is not only the girls themselves who choose to miss school.  Schools often send menstruating girls home instead of doing the humane thing and providing them with sanitary pads.

“If the government has seen fit to provide free condoms, why does it not provide free pads?” Tele asked.

The government has previously subsidised NGOs that make sanitary pads available. But these are usually for the short-term and only in certain areas.

Several initiatives have raised awareness around the issue and donated sanitary pads to schools.  For example, last year Imbumbu Foundation in association with Dis-Chem raised a million sanitary pads in Johannesburg.

There are also washable sanitary pads sometimes called Subz which are distributed in areas like Durban.  These prevent the problem of disposal which is difficult in schools with poor sanitation.

But Tele is specifically interested in raising disposable sanitary pads.

His aim is to collect 1 000 disposable sanitary pads to distribute around the schools of the Ndlambe area, and after that partner with organisations to collect sanitary pads for wider distribution.

Those who would like to get involved can contact Tele on 083-747-8260.

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