How does menstruation affect girls’ education? It affects menstruating people to a large degree. Firstly, if one is living in a place where there are not many resources, such as money for the over-priced sanitary products available to you, chances are you will get to a point where you have to decide whether you will buy bread for the family or provide your child who is menstruating with products. Many times the decision will be to feed the family. We cannot judge anyone who needs to make a decision like this, because frankly no one should have to decide between two necessities. This means that menstruating people end up staying at home during their menstruation. They miss school and eventually have to drop-out or repeat a year due to school days missed. This is a vicious cycle. We need to ensure that there are free sanitary products available to all, or at the very least to those who cannot afford it. Ultimately we need to look at engineering and making more products available that are not made for single-use like pads and tampons. We need to look at sustainable options so that we can be economically and environmentally friendly.
Are schools equipped to deal with this? Again, it depends on where you are located. Most schools in South Africa are not equipped for this. Firstly, they do not have proper hygiene management such as bins to dispose of pads and/or tampons. Many schools do not have running water. In recent months, with the drought in Cape Town many public spaces such as malls have cut their water supply, meaning you can’t clean your hands after changing products. This is not the correct way to deal with a drought. Coming back to schools, they need running water, sanitary disposal bins and general areas where menstruating learners can effectively manage their menstruation without feeling that their space is unhygienic.
How can the public help? The public can help by providing schools with sanitary bins for hygiene management. You do not have to be an NGO to do this, if you have the funds or the means, assist. The public can help by speaking out and placing pressure on government to implement good practice policies such as they are doing in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where the government is providing 2992 schools with sanitary pads. Yes, there are ways that the programme can be improved, but it is a start in the right direction. We are aware that the pads used are not SABS approved, but this can be improved upon as we go along. We have to move in the direction of progress. Our country has never failed in this regard and I look forward to the day where the same can be said about issues pertaining to gender the gender marginalised.
This is the first episode in a series of Cycles films to be released by Femme Projects which was founded by Kim Windvogel, Kelly-Eve Koopman and Loren Loubser.
Director of film:
Alana Du Poopy