Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Bathabile Dlamini says there is nothing that government treasures more than the dignity of women and girls.
“The South African government, through the Department of Women, has seen it appropriate to ensure that the dignity of the girl child is protected by rolling out free sanitary pads to learners,” Dlamini said.
Speaking at the launch of the National Sanitary Dignity Programme in Piet Retief in Mpumalanga on Thursday, Dlamini said government wants to ensure that learners attend school without hindrance due to “a biological phenomenon, which is a natural part of life”.
“Government wants these learners to reach their fullest potential and compete with boy learners on an equal footing so that women can finally and maximally occupy boardrooms of companies, government institutions and other sectors of society and be part of building of a truly diverse and non-sexist society and be leaders in their own right.
“Women are born into a life of oppression. Women are treated differently to men. As young girls, you are told that you must play inside, and you can only play with dolls,” the Minister said.
She decried cultural misnomers that result in young girls being expected to look after younger children, do the housework, cook and clean. Young girls, the Minister said, are prepared for a life of servitude even before they can enjoy their childhood.
“Young women are groomed for marriage and are measured by how many boys like them. Young girls struggle at tertiary institutions as they are treated as sex-objects, confined and controlled by young men, who constantly exert their toxic masculinity onto women to remain dominant.
“Women are constantly expected to prove themselves in the workplace, while doing the same work as men, as well as running a home.”
Dlamini said women face an additional burden of abuse, rape and murder.
“As a country, we have lost our moral compass, treating our women as objects to be used and discarded.”
The Minister said the Department of Women plays its part in all these areas through policy interventions, lobbying for gender-responsive budgeting, planning and auditing.
She said very few countries in the world supply free sanitary pads to women and girls that cannot afford to access these products.
“South Africa is one of the leaders in this quest to ensure that women empowerment and gender equality is realised.”
She said if sanitary pads are not made available to women and girls, that would have an impact on the academic progress of girl learners in particular at school, while boys would progress without hindrance and that would perpetuate the prevailing feature of an unequal society.
Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni called on the teachers to support girl learners when it is that time of the month.
“Most teachers do not know what to do to support girl learners. We thank those that are helping. As the provincial government, we are going to make sure that every girl child gets sanitary pads,” Mtsweni said.
Nokuthula Masango, a learner at Ndlela Secondary School, expressed her gratitude over the free sanitary pads.
“When it is that time of the month, I can’t concentrate on my studies and sometimes I don’t come to school. I thank our government for providing us with the sanitary pads,” she said.
Echoing the same sentiments was Silindile Nkosi, who said she hates going to school because of lack of sanitary pads.
“You feel uncomfortable and the situation becomes worse because you can’t afford the things you need. Sometimes our teachers help us,” Nkosi said.
The national launch of the Sanitary Dignity Programme was held under the theme ‘Restoring the dignity of young women’.
The launch is a culmination of government’s efforts to ensure that all young women have access to sanitary products.
Cabinet took a decision in October 2017 that the sanitary dignity programme should first be piloted in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces and that would inform and guide the national rollout process.
The Sanitary Dignity Programme encompasses the entire value chain, from procurement and production, to storage, distribution, and disposal of sanitary products.
The Department of Women is mandated with the responsibility to coordinate the development of an implementation framework on the distribution of sanitary products to indigent girls and women. – SAnews.gov.za