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%
‘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.
- 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.
|January 2016 to December 2016 total of 23,366
|North West Province
Help us extend our reach in the future – Donate TODAY!
- 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.