Rotary gives girls back their dignity

LEARNING FROM YOUR PEERS: Port Alfred High School Interact President Lynn Baatjies, left, explained in detail the content of the Subz packs she was distributing to beneficiaries at Velile High School

ACCORDING to UNICEF, one in 10 school-going girls in Africa misses school or drops out because of a lack of access to sanitary products.

Project Dignity, a Rotary initiative, distributes sponsored Subz packs (washable pads and panties) to girls in schools and communities in rural areas across the country. By empowering teenagers through education, Rotary has already handed out over 50 000 sanitary pads and panty packs to give girls easy access to sanitary wear.

Many girls who come from poorer homes are not able to afford sanitary products, and make do with toilet paper, or in many instances have to share used sanitary pads.  Embarrassed and stripped of their dignity, these girls will often not go to school, or leave early until their period is over, affecting their work and potential.

The Rotary E-Club of South Africa One (E-Club one) partnered with Project Dignity and aimed to empower young girls, through education and access to sanitary wear, to reach their full potential.

The Southern Cluster of E-Club One, based in Port Alfred, supplied the first Subz packs to Shaw Park Combined School last year and the result has been an 80% improvement in absenteeism.

This success at Shaw Park Combined School prompted E-Club One to initiate a Rotary Global Grant in partnership with seven international Rotary Clubs namely: Rotary Clubs of Grossfehn, Witmund and Aurich (all in Germany) and the Rotary Clubs of Pall Mall and Newham in the United Kingdom as well as the Rotary Club of Türi in Estonia. These clubs were supported by Rotary Foundation and Rotary districts 1850, 1130 and 1420.

During December, the E-Club One provided seminars in Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea to familiarise teachers at the relevant schools with Project Dignity and to discuss the problems of absenteeism, pain management and bullying.

Almost 1 700 underprivileged young girls in seven schools throughout Ndlambe Municipality received the Subz packs. These schools include Port Alfred Primêre Skool, Velile High School, Nomzamo High School, Kuyasa Combined School, Ikamva Lesizwe Combined School, Nompucuko Combined School and Alexandria High School.

Hans Hon of the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One felt it was important to partner with the Interact Clubs because the girls who are members are of the same age as the beneficiaries and understand the problem. Further, the Interactors were able to explain the benefits and usage of the Subz pads in isiXhosa.

“This project could not have been realised without the partnership of the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One and the Rotary Club of Kenton-on-Sea, the Interact Clubs of Port Alfred High School and of Ikamwa Lesizwe Combined School, our Rotary District 9370, Stenden South Africa and Africa Charter Airline. The project was rolled out in March 2018 thanks to the collaboration and generosity of Rotarians, Interactors and sponsors,” said Hon.

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