Sanitary Pad and Hygiene Pack for Schoolgirls

Menstrual hygiene is not just a women’s issue but a societal issue. Given improper treatment, menstruation adversely impacts economic and social participation, thereby perpetuating gender inequality and disenfranchisement. A wealth of research indicates that girls/women without access to menstrual hygiene products: exhibit a few days of school absenteeism (only rigorous research can verify the average absentee days); present concentration difficulties due to bodily discomfort; and resort to using unhygienic products (socks/rags), leading to a host of infections, bodily odour, pain and discomfort[1]. Proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM) requires sanitary pads, complemented by hygiene products, and adequate toilet and ablution facilities.

The budget allocated for the delivery of free sanitary pads to impoverished schools is still to impact the majority of these schools. WCMA beneficiary schools, have either never received free sanitary pads from government, or they received pads for a very limited period.

We strive to maintain a sustainable distribution of sanitary/hygiene packs to indigent girls for a minimum of one year. Our pack serves to: improve the menstrual health of these girls; fill the gap left by the state; ease the financial burden on poor households; keep girls in school so that they can use their education to break the cycle of poverty.

[1] Okem A, Roma E and Wilmouth R. (n.d.) Menstrual hygiene management practices in three high schools of eThekwini Municipality: An exploratory study. Oxfam. (2016) Menstruation and menstrual hygiene management in selected KwaZulu Natal schools. The Citizen. (2018) 30% of SA learners miss school when menstruating.

Hygiene Pack for Individuals

Influenza, pneumonia, and other viral diseases are ranked amongst the top 10 causes of death in South Africa. These communicable diseases have consequences for overall health of the individual and communities, productivity levels, and they add further strain on our under-capacitated public health care system. Many of these communicable diseases can be prevented by simple hygiene practices: washing hands frequently, and disinfecting common use areas, for instance. Simple hygiene practices serve as an instrumental barrier to disease transmission. However, these practices also require products that are largely unaffordable by poorer people.

WCMA beneficiary communities are not in a position to afford these products because they are: orphaned and vulnerable children (OVCs) relying on limited state funding/NGO intervention; unemployed; ineligible for social grants due to age or the lack of relevant documentation/transport costs to access social development offices; are solely reliant on social grants to run a household. Many of these people live in informal housing with a severe lack of basic services. WCMA beneficiary communities cannot always afford these products. A basic hygiene pack improves hygiene practices, overall community health, and restores dignity to the lives of the poor.

We strive to maintain a sustainable distribution of hygiene packs to our communities for a minimum of one year. Our pack serves to: improve the overall health of our beneficiaries; help prevent the spread of communicable diseases which impact society and business; and ease the financial burden on poor households.

Food Pack for Individuals

According to Stats SA (2019)[1], 50% of the adult South African population live below the upper bound poverty line, with females being significantly poorer. Food poverty is pervasive. Prolonged unemployment, low-waged work, caring for orphaned children, and high consumer pricing (especially for energy and food), erode the capacity of poor households to respond to price hikes in food, transport, and basic services. Low-income households are largely unable to secure a basic, nutritious monthly diet, and are underspending on food by 54%, with consequences for maintaining good physical and mental health, and productivity (Smith et al., 2017)[2]. Food inflation remains persistently high with several essential food groups showing accelerated inflation increases in April 2019[3]. More than 6 million children go hungry regularly because their households live below the food poverty line, suffer income poverty, cannot respond to economic shocks, and are not necessarily able to produce their own food[4].

The majority of WCMA’s beneficiary communities live below the food or lower bound poverty line. Most households are female headed. Many households are child-headed. There are high levels of unemployment. Many children are OVCs. Most of the children rely on school feeding schemes for main meal. Our interaction with community representatives and school principals revealed that poor communities value an education and see it as an opportunity for their children to escape poverty. However, an education can only have a positive impact if a child has adequate access to basic services, proper nutrition, safe neighbourhoods- the list goes on. We strive to assist our communities mediate the challenges in accessing a basic, nutritionally balanced diet, through the sustainable distribution of food packs for a minimum of one year. Our pack serves to: improve the overall health, psycho-social and economic wellbeing of our beneficiaries; and ease the financial burden on poor households.

[1] Stats SA. (2019). Five Facts about Poverty in South Africa.

[2] Smith J, Abrahams M and Chiya N. (2017) 2017 PACSA Food Price Barometer Annual Report

[3] Statistics South Africa. (2019) Inflation edges slightly lower in April 2019

[4] UCT News. (2018) Millions of SA children going hungry