Earlier this year, the government scrapped VAT on sanitary pads and panty liners, Women’s Health reports.
While this has been a big step forward, many women and girls around the country still live with the predicament of not being able to afford these monthly essentials – and under lockdown their situation might be worse.
Zintle Mbola is a 22-year-old from Mdantsane in East London who is currently running a sanitary pads drive for less fortunate women in her community.
She’s not only a home-based caregiver by profession but also advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Speaking to YOU, Zintle is frank about her past struggles of needing sanitary towels.
“Growing up my family depended largely on social grant money which was hardly enough. That money would be used first to pay off debt and then to make ends meet,” she said.
“Other household items would take priority, like school uniform and food – pads were really the last thing on the list. So I had to find alternative ways of creating pads for myself for that time of the month.”
Zintle would convert torn clothing into pads. “It used to be such a challenge because I had to go to school and be around other kids which was very uncomfortable . . . sometimes I’d even get a rash from irritation,” she explains.
Also a community development officer, Zintle received requests for pads from young women she’d worked with before on community projects and was deeply affected by their plight.
“Their pleas were so close to home because I knew exactly what it felt like to need pads and not even have R20 to buy them.”
What worried her even more was that some of the women who’d approached her for help didn’t depend solely on grants but had an income stream that would be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“That's where I got the idea of the drive,” she explained.
Initially she dipped into her own pocket to purchase pads but she’s since reached out on social media for others to assist too.
“I’m getting people to donate as little as R2 each so at least 50 girls can have sanitary pads,” she said.
Zintle not only helps those that reach out to her but also donates the pads she receives to organisations in her local community aimed specifically at supporting women and girls.
When it comes to helping others, Zintle believes anyone can do it; you don’t need a big budget, “Start small,” she said.
“You don't need to have money to help someone, you could help someone by giving them the clothes you've outgrown or even share your meal or start including someone on your budget when buying toiletries.”
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