Menstrual hygiene is not just a women’s issue but a societal issue because, given improper treatment, menstruation adversely impacts women and adolescent girls’ participation in economic and social life, 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 (rigorous research is required to verify an average number of absentee days); find it difficult to concentrate in class due to bodily discomfort; and resort to using unhygienic products (socks/rags), leading to a host of infections, bodily odour, pain and discomfort[1]. Despite the intrinsic value of sanitary pads, proper menstrual hygiene management (MHM) requires more than a sanitary pad. Studies indicate that many schools lack the necessary infrastructure to promote adequate (MHM)[2]—inadequate toilets and ablution facilities; insufficient or non-existent supply of soap, toilet rolls and refuse bins. There is a substantial amount of shame, fear, uneasiness, and embarrassment amongst girls in co-educational schools around the topic of menstruation. This points to the dire need of ensuring that girls are able to wash and change in the privacy of adequate ablution and toilet facilities.

High consumer pricing is a direct limitation in accessing sanitary pads and hygiene products, whilst there is also a significant gap in MHM. In response to these challenges, WCMA aims to distribute sanitary and hygiene packs to schoolgirls in marginalized communities on an on-going basis. It is a truism that access to these necessities invariably contributes to healthier, empowered, and sustainable communities. Through its distribution system, WCMA hopes to give young girls a fighting chance at empowering themselves and their communities, becoming productive South African citizens, transcending poverty and ultimately realising their absolute right to live with dignity. WCMA partners with strategic NGOs and identifies schools (and invariably, families) that will benefit from the distribution of sanitary and hygiene packs. We understand the intrinsic value of partnering with supporting networks of NGOs and industry for the attainment of our goal.

[1] Okem, A., Roma, E., Wilmouth, R. (n.d.) Menstrual hygiene managament 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.

[2] Refer to references in footnote 1.