Sweet Sixteen Summit
January 5, 2018
My Body #NoShame
January 5, 2018

Menstrual FACTS and FICTION

  • “7 million girls miss school every month because they don’t have sanitary wear”

This statement is FICTION and not a menstrual fact!

We (civil society, the media, Corporate South Africa and the public) are perpetuating a myth that is totally devoid of any facts” i.e. 7 million girls miss school because they don’t have sanitary wear”

I think the problem is that we have NO PROOF –  which is why obtaining credible, reliable facts is HUGE and URGENT property for Dignity Dreams and the process has started.

  • I’m not disputing that at any given time there are 7 million girls menstruating, but to say they stay at home is NOT correct
  • There is already some backlash from other women and girls who say that if you really want to go to school you will plan
  • Especially the older ladies are saying they had no choice – they were determined to get an education – no matter whether they had their periods or not
  • According to STATS SA 2014 who surveyed 14 million learners:
    • only 21.8% of girls do not complete their schooling as compared to boys – only 1% do not complete schooling
  • Our own survey of 286 learners reveal the following:
    • Number of girls who go to school

– whether they have pads or not:                                     200        70%

  • Number of girls who stay at home:                           62         22%
  • No answer                                                                     24           8%
  •  http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0318/P03182014.pdf


‘Dignity Dreams celebrated its 4th birthday on 6 Feb 2017 and the past 4 years have been the happiest of my life.’ Sandra Millar.

How the journey started:

  • I became aware of this problem on 6th Feb, when I visited a group of young girls aged 9 – 12 years old – in Grasskop (on behalf of Child Welfare) to find out what their urgent needs were
  • That was the 1st time that I was told that these young girls have never had the luxury of sanitary towels  – they were using socks filled with sand, paper, toilet paper etc. when they had their periods
  • I suppose the easy part about establishing Dignity Dreams was finding a pattern, finding ladies to sew the pads, looking for donors an handing out our beautiful packs
  • It soon became very clear to me that our approach was a “Band-Aid” approach – handing out our packs and explaining how to use them was NOT solving many other cultural and societal issues
  • Our greatest problem was to find a sensitive and appropriate way to tackle the hundreds of myths and stigmas that are VERY real to these young girls i.e.
    • Menstrual blood is dirty
    • They can’t bath during their menstrual cycle
    • They can’t play sport
    • They smell
    • They can’t cook food
    • They can’ take place in any social activities – some are even prevented from going to church. 
  • Far more worrying to us was:
    • They had NO idea what a “Menstrual Cycle” was
    • They’d stay away from school because they believe they were bewitched or they were scared, frightened and alone
    • They had absolutely NO idea of what their body parts looked like and what the biological processes were
    • They didn’t know they were fertile once they started their periods – perhaps this is why the pregnancy rate is soo high.
    • So we had to revise our whole strategy to include age appropriate conversations about Menstrual Health and Hygiene  –  this is a long, but VERY necessary programme.
    • We use aids such as beautiful charts to walk them through the process and encourage an interactive session.
    • For this reason we have printed a booklet dealing as best we can with all the above issues.
    • The one thing that still needs a lot of work to make boys and young men part of the conversation – we can’t empower girls and young women while the opposite sex also have NO idea what’s happening to their peers or in fact, their own bodies.
    • A large percentage of these young girls don’t even have panties, so our packs include panties.  
  • Tackling Unemployment
    • We have set up our own workshop, trained previously unemployed women to sew and pay them per item produced.
    • They run their own Micro Businesses.
    • We have also transferred skills such as stock control, quality control, basic bookkeeping
    • The toughest part of this exercise was to make them understand that they WORK FOR THEMSELVES
    • Any inferior work is rejected. 
  • Quality
    • The SABS had approved our pads for absorbency – a normal pad must absorb 5ml of fluid – our Dignity Dreams packs absorb 18.9 ml
    • Although they stated that the pads will last for 5 years, we can’t lay claim to that statement because we are only 4 years old.
    • We are very adamant that our pads must be worn with pride and comfort – which is why we are currently on prototype No 7 and probably as time goes by we must keep listening to the young girls, test our product constantly improve our product
    • We are also aware that the national numbers being bandied about i.e. “7 million girls miss school every month” is in fact not true.


  • Our reach –
January 2016 to December 2016 total of 23,366
Province Packs Distribution
Gauteng 12710
Mpumalanga 2105
North West Province 1412
Limpopo 990
Kwa-Zulu Natal 3977
Cape Town 722
Eastern Cape 397
Western Cape 1
Northern Cape 200
Free State 300
Namibia 414
Lesotho 10
Zambia 128
Total 23366

Help us extend our reach in the future – Donate TODAY!


  • Goals
      • Our goal is to secure funding for 1,000 packs per month.
      • This would mean that 1,000 learners will have sanitary wear for at least the next 3 years
      • We can guarantee work for our MICRO BUSINESSES – I’d hate to disappoint them due the fact that we have no orders.
    • Measuring the impact and success of the project
      • A decrease of the following:
        • School pregnancies
        • Vaginal infections
        • A renewed sense of self-worth
        • The ability to make informed choices
          • about their bodies:
          • when they want to have children
          • about their futures


 The day that I found out about this problem I cried, not for the girls, but because I’d been involved in the NPO sector for 19 years and I was so angry that I was not aware of this problem.  I couldn’t believe how ignorant I was. Until that day I believed “Poverty” meant not having enough a home or food, now I know “Poverty” means:

  • A poverty of love
  • Poverty of nurturing
  • Poverty of education
  • Poverty of self-worth

That’s why I love what I do because slowly but surely, we will make a difference.

Written by Sandra Millar February 2017.




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