The process to appoint a service provider to supply and deliver sanitary pads to the R23 million Sanitary Dignity Project of the department of social development (DSD) has begun.Prospective bidders attended a compulsory briefing session at the Kensington Treatment Centre in Maitland on Friday 23 August. The department is seeking to appoint a service provider that can supply and deliver sanitary pads in terms of the stipulated specifications drawn out in the bid documents.Joshua Covenant Chigome, the spokesperson for the provincial minister of social development, Sharna Fernandez, says the department cannot comment on when the bidding process will be finalised, saying the department could be held liable for providing any form of information supplied on the bidding procedure.In a press release, Fernandez says she welcomes the progress being made regarding the roll-out of the project to female learners across the province.In February 2019, the provincial cabinet and provincial treasury identified the DSD as the department to implement the framework of the project. Fernandez and DSD head of department Dr Robert Macdonald were designated to take responsibility for the project and to establish the provincial committee for the project to oversee the implementation of the framework.Fernandez says: “In South Africa, menstrual hygiene and the inability of female learners to go to school when they are experiencing their periods is not just a sanitation issue, nor is it a physiological one. Rather, it is something that has wider socio-economic implications with historical connotations.”Following an analysis of data collected from 2016 to 2018 school attendance and retention rates of female learners in Grades 4 to 12, schools have been identified comprising Q1 to Q5 schools, no-fee paying schools and fee-charging schools. It was decided that the project should prioritise schools in rural areas and include special needs schools.The programme will consider a maximum of 222 schools and approximately 90 000 female learners for the project.“Although there is still so much more to be done, this project will go a long way to promoting the dignity of thousands of indigent female learners,” says Fernandez.