A Promise of Dignity
A Promise of Dignity: SA Students Undertake a Sanitary Pad Campaign
By Gabriella Fedetto – Head Girl, St Stithians Girls’ College, Johannesburg, South Africa
Any cause becomes unique when undertaking it allows you to serve the underprivileged members of your community, while simultaneously opening up important dialogues and conversations about key social issues. It was for this reason that St Stithians College and the other member schools of the Phoenix Committee felt it was crucial to create a Sanitary Pad Drive.
The Phoenix Committee is a coalition of student leaders from some of the top schools in Johannesburg, South Africa. At its core, Phoenix organizes charity initiatives which allow us to utilize our resources, privilege, and unique platform (reaching thousands of students at our respective schools) to prompt change and make a difference.
At the core of the Sanitary Pad Drive is the principle of human dignity, a right enshrined in our South African Constitution.
When 5 million girls on average miss school monthly due to a lack of sanitary products during menstruation, and we remain bystanders to this, we become the architects of their disempowerment.
Beyond this, when thousands of girls are forced to use rags, socks, paper, or sand as alternatives to sanitary products, and we are complacent, we violate their basic human rights.
It is for these reasons that we are aiming to raise over ten thousand packs of pads from May to July 2017, through the students in the schools we lead, and any sponsors we may find. Tampons will be accepted, but pads are preferable because they are less invasive in nature. Collection stations at the involved schools will allow for pads – packs only, as it would be unhygienic to accept donations of single pads – or cash contributions to be deposited. Hereafter, these pads will be distributed to girls at underprivileged schools across our province. In addition, we will be lobbying our provincial government to provide sanitary products to women regularly. It is our hope that the Sanitary Pad Drive will break the stigma and taboo in which women’s health is shrouded, as young leaders (both male and female) from across Johannesburg undertake in this cause and bring the conversation of menstruation back to their schools.
As young women in a position of privilege, we feel personally responsible for our sisters nationwide who have been denied access to these essential healthcare products.
And we hope to empower them, but also inspire our peers, families, and communities to engage with this issue. But it must be remembered that the inaccessibility of menstrual products is not limited to South Africa, and not even to the developing world. As long as the stigma around women’s health and menstruation is prevalent, the issue remains global.