As girls reach puberty and start their menstruation cycle it poses a new phase in their lives but this watershed moment comes with its own challenges as many cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.
Wilma Martin, City health promotion officer for the Northern sub-district noted in her regular visits to schools a dire need to help some of the girls from disadvantaged communities.
During menstruatiation she observed, “educators, including the principal ended up taking the girls home, as they either started their menstruation or soiled themselves. Many of these girls do not or cannot afford to buy pads every month as it is expensive and the parent/s or guardian is unemployed”.
“They used rolled up toilet paper or folded newspaper and it becomes the school’s problem. Huge costs are incurred clearing and unblocking drains and sewerage pipes. After talking to educators, principals, parents and caregivers, I identified the need for a project to introduce reusable material sanitary pads.”
Ms Martin, who won an achievement award last year from the City Gender Forum, told Northern News the project took off in 2014. Last year Rotary Oostenberg came on board and sponsored the first group of girls who were given sanitary packs at Parkdene Primary School in Scottsdene.
In her hard work on the project, Ms Martin has calculated the cost for a year’s supply of reusable pads for one girl at around R600 which includes a bag in which to hold the reusable pads. It includes hygienic supplies that are used in tandem with the pads. If cared for correctly she said, the pads can be used for up to three years.
She added that by using the reusable pads, she estimated it saved about R550 a year for each child as well as a major reduction in absenteeism at school every month.
The project has also been rolled out Kraaifontein AME Primary School, in which 19 girls were involved where Ms Martin did the sewing. Watsonia Primary school, Scottsdene, has also been the recipient of the project, involving 100 girls and the AWF (Anglican Women’s Fellowship) of Northpine church did the sewing.
In addition, Petunia Primary in Scottsville and Northpine Primary School will also be receiving the pad packs, said Ms Martin.
Ms Martin told Northern News a similar oval-shaped pad with a towelling insert was devised for the elderly in the Kraaifontein Old Age Home, which she said, was well-received.
At all schools girls were offered workshops on how to take care of themselves and taught the importance of femine hygiene.
“I have tried and tested the reusable sanitary pads myself and found it comfortable, easy to use, non-allergic, and useful and most of all it saves money,” said Ms Martin.
If anyone can help by sewing the drawstring bags; donate materials for them such as cotton, flannel and waterproofing materials and a sewing machine they can contact Wilma Martin on 021 9801304 or 084 653 6656.