Comrades and Friends.
Hon. Speaker, in South Africa, it is estimated that approximately 7 million girls are absent for four to five days from school each month because of their menstruation. Due to them missing so many school days, they often drop out of school altogether. As women, they are forced to use any means possible when on their periods – rags, old towels, leaves, grass and even school notebook paper. These alternative means has also resulted in some women’s inability to reproduce over time due to these alternative methods to lack of sanitary towels.
The lack of access to sanitary towels of South African girls and young women is not only a story of disadvantaged women, but also a story of the Loss of Education. In the words of our Hon. President Jacob Zuma “Government will provide free sanitary towels to women who cannot afford them.” Hon. Members, as the Portfolio Committee Chair for Social Development, I have started a Sanitary Towel Campaign in efforts to support young girls/women who cannot afford sanitary towels. I have put together a team consisting of young men and women from ANC Caucus and in collaboration with CUT Campus Radio and Moteo FM, to create awareness of lack of access to sanitary towels.
I have challenged members of the Social Development Committee to support this campaign, yes including the opposition parties. We have are all elected members of Parliament and should put Free State citizens before our own political differences. Letters requesting for sponsorship have been send out to all Government Departments as well as the Private Sector in the Free State to sponsor us with sanitary towels. I therefore call upon the MECs and their respective HODs to support our endeavour, requesting for each department to sponsor us with 250 sanitary towels. I request that the MECs and their departments set an example to the private sector and give us their support. Hon. Speaker, instead of providing only one sanitary towel packet, we want to give each girl or young women 12 packets of sanitary towels for an entire year, to ensure that they are not absent from school for one more day due to their menstruation.
Hon. Members, the Sanitary Towels Campaign is not limited to only collecting Sanitary towels and distributing them to girls/ young women. In addition, this campaign will also have a dialogue between mothers and daughters, dialogue between young women and men. It has been found that especially in our disadvantaged community; the development of a young girl is not celebrated as a girl finally entering womanhood, instead it comes a time of shame, embarrassment and stigmatisation as stated by the P&G organization.
Hon. Speaker, the Sanitary Towels Campaign under the Portfolio committee is dedicated at eradicating young girls and women’s negative perception of the menstruation cycle. We have also started a online campaign of challenging old and young men to take a picture either buying or holding Facebook a sanitary packet in their hands. This is done to illuminate the embarrassment associated with purchasing sanitary towels. We are encouraging all men to stand tall with young girls and women and speak on issues associated with menstruation cycles.
Hon. Members, we as leaders have a political and social responsibility towards ensuring our community engage on issues affecting them. Stand with the Committee on Social Development and let’s ensure we reach our target of providing sanitary towels to young girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds in the Free State Province. I also urge members to support us in our endeavour and participate in Community Dialogues discussing Access to Sanitary Towels which we will communicate at a later stage.