Sanitary dignity programme makes progress

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) continues to deliver free disposable sanitary pads to indigent/poor girls and women since 2019.

The department has since 2019 been delivering the sanitary products through its sanitary dignity programme.

From 2019 to 2023, the programme has benefited 4.3 million learners.

The department revealed that the current budget for the programme in the 2023/24 financial year is R235 million, which will increase in the 2024/25 financial year as well as into the outer years. 

The Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework (SDIF) was developed and approved by Cabinet in 2017 to manage menstruation in a safe, knowledgeable, and dignified manner and to ensure that female learners attend school uninterrupted by the normal process of menstruation.

This therefore addresses menstrual health and sexual reproductive health rights of girl learners.

The provision of such well-needed products has enabled girl learners to reach their fullest potential at school, just like their fellow boy learners - therefore the programme provides equal education opportunities amongst all genders.

The department highlighted that in line with the implementation of the SDIF, provinces receive the allocation through a direct equitable share budget from National Treasury to roll out the programme to quintiles 1, 2, and 3 (no fee paying) schools, special and farm schools.
Another contributor to the programme is the Department of Higher Education, Training and Innovation through ensuring that the National Student Financial Scheme (NSFAS) grant beneficiaries in post-education and training institutions (universities, colleges and technical and vocational education and training colleges) receive monthly stipends of R290 to purchase menstrual products of their choice, amongst other things.

The number of such beneficiaries reached in 2023 is 429,000 female students.

“Although provision is made to ensure that girls and women’s dignity is addressed and that menstrual products poverty is mitigated, many other indigent deserving women and girls cannot be reached due to budgetary constraints,” Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said in a statement on Monday.

The Minister added that as the programme matures, the dignity of women and girls will be restored. 

“That is why the Cabinet indicated in 2017 that the programme will take an incremental approach as far as budget allocation is concerned. As a result, the allocation was R 157 million in 2019/20 and by 2023/24 it had increased to R235 million,” she said.


Another important development is that through the programme, women, youth, and persons with disabilities enterprises have emerged in the form of manufacturing and distribution of menstrual products through provincial government public procurement processes. 

The department said that one of the highlights of this achievement has been assisting a small local brand called Lindiwe Pads to grow and create its own sanitary pads local manufacturing factory in Gauteng.

The company has impressive facilities, state-of-the-art machinery, and raw materials.

Apart from the owner’s bold initiatives, this has been through efforts to give strategic, operational and financial support to Lindiwe Pads provided by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, Department of Small Business Development, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the DWYPD. 

The role of the DWYPD has been to provide policy clarity, and moral encouragement, introducing the owner to various platforms for publicity as well as engaging with the IDC to vouch for sustainability of the company.
Lindiwe Pads enterprise has been awarded a contract to distribute disposable sanitary pads that are South African Bureau on Standards (SABS) compliant in one of the education districts in the Eastern Cape. 

The National Strategic Plan on GBVF (gender-based violence and femicide) calls for the economic empowerment of women and through the economic value chain of the sanitary dignity programme, women, youth and persons with disability-owned enterprises can benefit. 

In 2019 a zero VAT rate was pronounced by the Minister of Finance on disposable sanitary pads to make them more accessible for women and girls. –