Project offers ‘dignity’ to pupils

2016-05-10 06:00
Photo: supplied Girls excited about the donation.

Photo: supplied Girls excited about the donation.

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THE educational future of 29 young women from the Ndwedwe community of KwaZulu-Natal has just been drastically improved by the generous donation of Subz Pads and Panties packs, a reusable sanitary pad that will last each girl throughout her high school career.

When Sue Barnes of Hillcrest, read about UNICEF’s finding - that a tenth of school-going teenage girls in Africa miss up to 25% of their education because of a lack of menstrual sanitary products - she developed a unique product that was both economically and environmentally-friendly.

“There are currently nine million girls between the ages of 13 and 19 in South Africa,” explained Sue.

“Our aim is to ensure all girls have the adequate sanitary products, thereby reducing absenteeism and dropout rates at school, so that they can finish their education with dignity.”

For many poor families, when money does come in it goes towards food, and even for those who can afford sanitary pads, facilities at schools are often so in disrepair that there is nowhere to discard used sanitary pads, creating inconvenience for the young women.

Barnes designed a user-friendly, washable sanitary pad that clips onto a cotton panty with a lifespan of three to five years. Each sanitary pad has six layers, ensuring optimum retention which allows young girls to continue working at school without fear of embarrassment or hygiene concerns.

Project Dignity is the non-profit extension of Subz Pads and Panties, whereby individuals and companies sponsor packs for young girls in rural areas. To date, Barnes and her team have distributed some 50 000 packs to school-going girls over the past six years.

The most recent recipients are the 29 young women at Manaba Secondary School in the rural area of Ndwedwe. Project Dignity, working with Sibiya Trust and educational partner, Lifeline, visited the school last week to distribute packs.

After being welcomed in song by the school, Barnes was given the opportunity to explain the role of Project Dignity, followed by a short talk from Thabile Kojane of Sibiya Trust and a fun, educational talk by Sizo Zulu from Lifeline on the puberty, menstruation, sexual health and contraception. Each girl was given a pack containing pads and panties, and a thorough explanation was given as to how to use and care for the items. While the girls were engaged, Sthe Luthuli from Lifeline was giving an educational, interactive talk to the boys of Manaba Secondary School.

One pupil, commenting on the receipt of the pads, said: “This will change my life. I won’t have to travel far each month to buy pads now and I will have extra money.”

Barnes said this had been another hugely successful undertaking, and she was looking forward to the next activation on Friday 6 May when Project Dignity and Sibiya Trust would visit Inkosinathi High School.

“It’s incredible to know that we are making such a huge difference to their lives by supplying such a basic necessity,” she explained. “Their education is the key to their future, as well as to the success of both themselves and our country.”

Recipients of Project Dignity are selected by the funder who chooses which school or community to support. Packs are then bought, in one of two sizes, with two pricing options. The R150 packs contain two panties and six washable pads, while the R220 packs contain three panties and nine washable pads. Barnes and her team work throughout the country, attempting to meet the needs of so many schools on the list. Schools can also be supported through the MySchool Card programme.

Project Dignity and Barnes herself have received a number of awards for the incredible work being done including the runner-up Elle International Award, Clarins Most Dynamic Woman Award, the SAB Social Innovation Award, Greenovation and Redcap Awards, among others.

Anyone wanting to get involved and contribute towards this worthwhile initiative can visit the

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