End to period poverty at Heathfield High

Amanda Jacobs, Denique Arendse, Thamicah Bejamin, Meda Kayembe, Asiphe Siyila and Sabrina Kabongo with the vending a=machine that was launched at Heathfield High.

Measures have been put in place fight against “period poverty“ at Heathfield High School thanks to organisations which have made it much easier for girls at the school access sanitary pads.

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products or hygiene facilities for young women when they are menstruating.

Non-profit organisations MENstruation and O Grace Land Girls’ Home installed a sanitary pad vending machine at the school on Wednesday February 2. The machine, which will be restocked monthly, dispenses free pads to girls who are given special coins to put in the machine. For one token the girls can get eight sanitary pads each month.

Although the school had a sanitary pad programme, it had been difficult to administer because pupils would get the pads at a specific time of the month and take them However, they would often be sold, stolen or forgotten at home when they were needed.

Having a vending machine at the school means pupils have access to sanitary towels when they need them.

There has been much debate about the importance of providing free sanitary pads to pupils who can’t afford them because many miss out on school when they don’t have money or access to pads.

Heathfield High principal Wesley Neumann and MENstruation co-director Marius Basson.

Project c-ordinator for the MENstruation Foundation, Amrain Essop, stressed the importance of the vending machine initiative. “On average women get their period once a month for about a week. Girls who can’t afford pads stay home for that entire week. That means for one academic year, she misses out on 12 weeks of school.”

She said the project means those girls will not have to miss out on school because of their period and “that is a definite way to fight period poverty”.

Comedian Siv Ngesi, a co-director of MENstruation said it is the ultimate goal to have a sanitary pad vending machine at every school. “There is an injustice in the country, where condoms are free, though sanitary pads are not. If men bled once per month, sanitary pads would be free.”

Another MENstruation co-director, Marius Basson, said he was inspired to start the initiative when he realised the need for an easier way to distribute pads to those most in need.

“I spoke to some sponsors. We were then able to make these non-electric vending machines and we are hoping to make it available to as many schools as possible.”

Heathfield High principal Wesley Neumann thanked the organisation for choosing the school.

Schools can contact Mr Basson on 083 651 8430 or send an email to marius@menstruation.foundation to find out how they can have their own vending machines.