Menstruation is a natural biological process, one experienced by nearly all women of reproductive age. Yet in South Africa, an estimated 3.7 million girls have not been able to manage their monthly cycle with dignity. The trauma of not being able to access quality pads, menstrual health education or safe and dignified toilets at schools often causes young people to miss school, diminishes their self-esteem, and is ultimately a human rights issue.
Everyone has the right to sanitary dignity. In 2018, over 100,000 Global Citizens, alongside activists and partners, took action to ensure no student is left behind. The Government of South Africa heard your call and allocated R157 million of the national budget for the Sanitary Dignity Programme. This life-changing scheme will provide free sanitary products for learners from low income households — as well as removing VAT to make them more affordable, and promising to replace unsafe pit latrines in 2,400 schools.
Despite this incredible progress, we still have a long way to go to ensure that poor menstrual health is a thing of the past — especially since this programme now has new leadership. Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Deputy Minister Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize have the important task of ensuring the department’s menstrual health commitment is implemented in a timely and quality manner. But it’s also vital they go further. To reach every student, South Africa needs quality menstrual hygiene education for girls and boys, as well as safe, private, and dignified bathrooms in schools that include handwashing and waste management facilities.
No-one should miss school because of their periods. Send a tweet now to the ministers, and let them know that we need urgent action.