Girlz4Girlz, a Goodwood non-profit project, is hoping to collect 1500 packs of sanitary pads before schools close.
The pads are a basic necessity but remain out of reach for many who can’t afford them, says 15-year-old Salma de Jongh who started the project in 2019 while in Grade 7 at Goodwood Park Primary School.
The project collects sanitary pads for distribution to girls in schools identified, with the help of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), as having the highest absenteeism rates for girls.
“It is a widespread, but unacknowledged, problem that girls in Africa miss school and stay at home because of menstruation,” says Salma.
WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond says there is a growing awareness of the problem.
“This affects mainly our poorer learners who cannot always afford the products required to manage their menstruation in a dignified and hygienic way,” says Ms Hammond.
It’s hard to say just how big the problem is, she says, because girls who are absent don’t necessarily tell their schools they stayed home because they were having their period.
“As a country, we all need to support these learners. Female learners should not have to lose out on precious learning time due to the fact that they are menstruating,” says Ms Hammond.
So far Girlz4Girlz has collected 471 packets of sanitary pads.
“We usually ask schools to have a civvies day and charge one packet, or more, of sanitary pads per learner. We request such individual drives to support us,” says Salma.
She is also supported by a company that does workplace collections of sanitary pads.
Donations can be dropped off at Goodwood Park Primary School during school hours.
“The school has always supported every single drive we run and even offered to be the local drop-off point,“ says Salma. ”Thank you to Goodwood Park Primary School. I will always be a proud Parkie!”