‘Sanitary pads should be free in SA’

Always Maxi pads, which sell a bit more than the above Always Ultra pads at R59,99, were going for R10 at Pick 'n Pay. Picture: Ndileka Lujabe
Always Maxi pads, which sell a bit more than the above Always Ultra pads at R59,99, were going for R10 at Pick 'n Pay. Picture: Ndileka Lujabe

Pick 'n Pay had a massive one-day sale on August 19 on their Maxi Sanitary Pads.

The pads, which normally go for R59,99, were only R10 and people took to social media to take advantage of the sale and encouraged shoppers to contribute towards a bigger cause and buy pads for underprivileged girls.

In South Africa, many girls and women cannot afford sanitary products.

Many impoverished young girls miss school due to this problem and although the numbers are known to be high, Africa Check reported there is no accurate data on how many girls are affected.


Last year Dis-Chem launched the One Million Comforts campaign which is aimed at keeping girls in school by ensuring that there are no interruptions to their education owing to monthly menstruation.

The project, in association with the Imbumbu Foundation’s Caring4Girls project, initially aimed to amass over one million sanitary towels between September 14 and mid-October 2015.

The campaign collected over 1 million pads last year, and this year they went for it again selling 8 pads for R9.95.

"It’s scary to think that because of a normal bodily function a young lady or a school girl could miss that amount of school, so definitely there should be much bigger efforts to help them become more freely available,” Dis-Chem said.

"I grew up not using pads. It was difficult, I had to use paper or just a towel or tissue," said Tryphina, 36, who was buying pads for her daughter at one of the Pick 'n Pay stores.

"It's sad, I actually feel sorry for them. If they [could] get pads for free or at a lesser price it would actually help ... it's a very sad story," she added.

Even though organisations are trying their best, many like Tryphina believe women shouldn’t have to pay for a necessity.

"Let's have free pads as South Africa. If you can have free condoms why don't you have free pads?" said Brian Matyila, chairperson of Citizens ZA Movement.

Matyila and colleagues from Citizens ZA Movement rallied outside Pick 'n Pay in Johannesburg at Melville Campus Square encouraging shoppers to go and buy pads and contribute to the One Million Pads drive they were supporting. 

Matyila added that one of the solutions to the problem would be to remove stigmas around menstruation, and for men, especially, to start having conversations about how they need to be more involved in helping.

"It's important for men to start teaching each other about menstrual cycles, about the effects that come with lack of pads because we find that men are the ones that drive the stigma.

"We thought let's do something as men to honour our women on [University of Johannesburg] campus. But once we started with that process we realised it's a bigger problem. It goes beyond UJ," Matyila said.  

Khanyi Zungu, an attorney who works in several outreach programmes, said that some impoverished girls cannot afford pads and are sometimes forced to choose between spending money on either food or pads.

"We're very privileged and it's something we take for granted. If you go to some of these households you're astonished because girls say they're not going to school because they don't have pads. They have to choose between food and pads," Zungu said.

Reneilwe Maleka, who was shopping together with Zungu for pads to donate, said the first step to solving the issue would be for pads not to be taxed.

"Let's start by having less tax on it because we already know what it does to a young girl. We're taxing sanitary towels which are a basic need; it impacts on your human dignity," she said. 

"We have the ministry of sanitation and people in education. It touches on all of them and they're not doing anything," she added.

By 9:30am, pads were sold out in many Johannesburg stores. 

Zungu and Malika went to five different stores in order to reach their target of 100 pads and succeeded.

Although the sale is over, Dis-Chem and the students from Citizens ZA are still running pad drives and are calling for more people to get involved.

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