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In a lot of underprivileged areas in South Africa, for example the Eastern Cape Area, the cost of feminine hygiene products (usually not less than R20) seems unaffordable for low income households. Girls who cannot manage to purchase sanitary products are sometimes forced to make use of tissue paper, newspapers, rags, old pieces of cloth and even leaves. These materials are weak substitutes for sanitary products and often lead to leaks and stains, and health issues in some cases (Tracey Appollis, 2015).
As a result of this, it is not uncommon for most girls to choose to skip school during their menstrual cycles to avoid the embarrassment and mockery from their peers in the event of a mishap. This puts young South African girls at a disadvantage compared to their male peers. The most common statistics on the issue report that 1 in 10 South African girls, an estimated 7 million girls, miss at least 2 days of school every month due to lack of sanitary products. This figure has been in wide circulation since 2014, and it is often quoted as the South African Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) report, while others have attributed the statistics to a report from UNESCO.
Fact checking organization, Africacheck, has challenged the authenticity of these statistics and have proven them to be inaccurate. Their 2016 report is backed by the 2014 DBE statistics which state that in 2014, about 6.28 million girls were enrolled in primary and secondary schools in South Africa and therefore put the number of girls unable to afford sanitary products at an estimated 3.77 million. Even though the figure is less than 7 million, the fact remains that 3.77 million is still a significant number of girls who may be forced to miss school due to lack of feminine hygiene products.
Education activists have posited that female education is at a lower rate than male education in developing countries, so menstruation and lack of sanitary products may not be the only explanation for girls’ poor attendance. Although it may not be the only contributing factor, it is undeniable that a considerable number of South African girls skip school to avoid the hassles that come with using these alternative materials during their menstrual cycles.
The issue of menstrual hygiene and lack of sanitary products is still a huge concern. In 2011, writer Jen Thorpe calculated the average cost of menstruation in this manner: if a woman uses at least two packs of sanitary products per menstrual cycle, and menstruates between the ages of 10 to 45 years, this amounts to not less than R12 000 in her lifetime.
This is a huge expense for many struggling households. Due to the severity of the problem, various organizations have campaigned to raise awareness of the issue, and many NGOs work to provide free sanitary products and health education for young girls. Some of them include: Dignity Dreams, AfriPads and Days for Girls
We Donated all the funds collected to Dignity Dreams, a great organisation, doing extraordinary work. If you didn’t manage to donate go check out their website it’s never too late to lend a helping hand