Across South Africa and around the world, students miss out on school every month because of a natural phenomenon: their period.

This doesn’t just affect their education  — it also impacts their health, dignity, and confidence. This is because students across South Africa, especially those living in poverty, are not provided with the information and resources to manage their periods properly. In turn, the deep stigmatization of menstruation is perpetuated, which impacts students’ self esteem. 

Last year, the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, committed R157 million for the national distribution of free sanitary products to school girls from low-income households. This is a major win that will help South African students stay in school and continue their human right to learn while on their periods.

All nine provinces of South Africa have been allotted a share of the R157 million to expand the government’s Sanitary Dignity Programme — a programme that helps to ensure every girl has access to sanitary products.

 As Global Citizens, we need to make sure that provincial governments use the allocated money for its intended purpose.In particular, the government needs to ensure that the free menstrual products provided are high quality, and that they come with menstrual health education for both girls and boys Finally, governments must ensure schools have private bathrooms with safe toilets, handwashing facilities, and waste management — or students won’t feel safe to deal with their periods with dignity 

The programme is already running in three provinces — those it was piloted in — and all other provinces are expected to start before the end of 2019. However, right now there is no information to suggest this is happening. This isn’t good enough!

South Africa is counting on the provincial governments to make this a reality and further expand menstrual health investment for supplies, education and toilets. #ItsBloodyTime no child misses school because of their period: add your name to call on provincial governments to step up!