Giving street women personal dignity

2016-06-29 06:00
PHOTO: supplied Zamathenjwa Nene has started a campaign to collect sanitary pads for women living on the street.

PHOTO: supplied Zamathenjwa Nene has started a campaign to collect sanitary pads for women living on the street.

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A PIETERMARITZBURG woman has started a ground-breaking nationwide campaign collecting sanitary towels for destitute women living on the street.

Zamathenjwa Nene (25), a former Cleland resident, started the #SanitariesForTheStreets campaign three months ago and it has spread to Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg.

Nene, a communications officer at the Department of Human Settlements in Pretoria, said she was prompted to start the campaign after reading an article on News24 highlighting the plight of women on the streets during their monthly menstrual cycle.

“That time of the month for me is an uncomfortable experience. I can’t imagine not being able to buy pads and not having painkillers. There are thousands of women living on the streets who are unable to access proper sanitary care. I have always wanted to do a ‘pad drive’. I noticed that most pad campaigns focused on girls at school and left out those living on the street. So when I came across this article, it struck a chord with me and I wanted to assist.”

Nene said most women on the streets are faced with the tough decision of choosing whether to buy sanitary towels or food.

“Sometimes their money is not enough and they have to choose food instead of pads. Some of these women have longer cycles, and getting one packet of sanitary pads that they can at times afford is not enough. They are then forced to use unhygienic alternatives to sanitary pads and this puts them at risk of getting infections. I think living on the streets is a challenge on its own and periods shouldn’t add to that hardship.”

After starting the campaign Nene said the response has been overwhelming.

“I started by buying the pads myself and then I reached out to colleagues at work and decided to expand the drive to social media, and the response has been great. I get inbox messages from people asking how they can donate every day.”

Nene said so far she has collected more than 500 pads.

“I want to collect at least 2 000 pads before the start of August, which is when I plan to do the handovers.

“The pads will be distributed to women on the streets and I will take some to female shelters. I have also made contact with the person who wrote the story for News24 and will be sending a box to Cape Town because those women are the reason I started the campaign.”

In due course Nene plans to extend the campaign to rural unemployed women who are unable to afford this basic necessity.

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