It’s unusual for a woman to even think of approaching a taxi driver (or any male) for a sanitary towel when they find themselves in need – but this local taxi driver wants that to change.
According to the South African Human Rights Commission, one in 10 girls in Africa miss school during menstruation due to the lack of availability of menstrual hygiene products, which denies these girls their basic right of quality education.
Taxi driver, Kamogelo Mampatla Betha from Lebowakgomo in Limpopo went viral on Facebook after he revealed that he buys pads and then stores them in his taxi for his passengers, who are mostly school children.
Speaking to DRUM, the 31-year-old said that he started the initiative in May last year after seeing how some of his female passengers would struggle whenever they were on their cycles.
"The idea to stock up on pads came about after I noticed that some of the school kids I transport to school every day would stain the seats of the car in the morning. Sometimes I would even find toilet paper they had used for their menstruation and that affected me because I realised that some people cannot afford pads. It’s really sad, people are very poor and cannot afford such cheap items," he explained.
"I put one pack of pads on the dashboard and when there are two left, I buy another pack. It is only R17 and I wish all other drivers would start joining this initiative. I have also started buying wipes so that those who leak can use them," he said.
Although he has tried to normalise menstruation in his community, he says he still faces a challenge where people find it taboo to speak about periods and where "sex is more normalised than menstruation".
"There are a few kids who are still shy to use the pads because some of the boys make funny faces and remarks when they see that someone is menstruating, however, I have tried to normalise this by talking to them and explaining that this is normal," Kamogelo said.
"If condoms can be available everywhere, pads should be too"
"Now, all the neighbouring school children, their parents and vendors outside the schools know that there are pads in my car and they come to ask for them."
Kamogelo, who is a father to a male child, also believes that the solution to normalising menstruation is teaching about it in schools from primary school level.
"There is a very wrong misconception in a man’s mind about menstruation. Some believe that when a woman menstruates she should stay away from men, food and church. That concept must change. As much as there are Life Orientation books that contain information about sex, those same books should contain information about menstruation."
He said if condoms can be available everywhere, pads should be too.
Kamogelo also urged other drivers and motorists to join his initiative by keeping pads in their cars.
"It is important for all of us to help one another," he said.
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