Let’s be honest that menstruation and sanitary hygiene are generally considered taboo subjects. It tends to create a sense of embarrassment, perhaps driven by the belief that it is a ‘private female issue’ not to be raised publicly, even in its many euphemistic forms. I sadly have to admit that I thought twice about our recent adoption of our social investment NPO, Project Dignity, and the reality that I would need to go public with this topic, in support of this worthy cause.

This is however a topic that must be spoken about.

Despite being a natural and necessary biological consequence of puberty in young women, in many cultures menstruation is perceived as unclean and something to be ashamed of. Many of us who live in our little bubble of the Western world have no idea what women in many countries in the 21st Century, including our very own, have to endure every month for the better part of their lives.

survey in India found nearly 25% of girls drop out of school permanently when they reach puberty, because they have no toilet at school. Women in many parts of India and Nepal are banished for menstruating. It is really hard to imagine being 14 years old and isolated in a hut away from your community while you bleed, a hut that has no sanitation and where you are prone to disease. It is a practice called Chhaupadi, which an article by Sugam Pokharel and James Griffiths of CNN describes in more detail.

Closer to home, and taking a look at the figures provided in our feature picture, statistics indicate that close to 7 million girls between 10 and 19 years in South Africa, miss a week of school every month due to limited access to sanitary pads. The poorer townships and rural schools lack affordable sanitary products, safe, clean sanitation and running water, and private ablution facilities.  It makes it easy to understand why a young menstruating girl would choose staying at home over attending school. The reality is a shocking one.

The stigma of menstruation prevents girls and their communities from talking about and addressing the problem.

I get angry when I think about the loss of the potential in these young girls, and the loss to our society of more educated, empowered women who can add value to the economy and whose lives and ultimately families could be changed for the better as a result of a better education. All of this can be enabled by a simple, basic need being met. We all need to know what is happening on our doorstep, to care about it and to dare to talk about it.

Project Dignity manufactures and supplies SubzWashable Pants and Pads which has given hope to young girls, allowing them to feel free to participate in daily activities, not to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and to complete their education. They work with existing networks of community educators and Life Orientation Teachers in schools to raise awareness and to distribute the Subz Pants and Pads product to young girls aged 10-19 years in schools throughout Kwa-Zulu Natal, Cape Town and South Africa.

Donations are very welcome. If you would like to contribute to the incredibly worthy cause simply click on the Donate button on our fundraising page here  https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/great-expectations-project-dignity-fund-ra. We are only just getting started but we can use all the support we can get.

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