Sanitary Towels, a Right or a Responsibility?

In a country where some people barely have enough water to live from while others have more than enough to waste; the government really needs to be held accountable for not delivering for the rights of its people. However, with a constitution that has so many rights to cater for, what is it that the government should prioritise? I mean, is it more important to build shelter for the young boy who is being taught under a tree or to make sure that he has food to eat while he continues to obtain an education? Moral dilemma isn’t it!

While the government of South Africa should be able to cater for the needs of every last citizen with its wealth and tax income, we all know that the reality is that the ‘government’ is most likely to do the bare minimum for the neediest beneficiary. This is usually for either damage control or to obtain support during an election. With that said, I am sure that we now agree on the fact that the government system of South Africa is in no place to protect, let alone promote, the rights of its people, especially the youth.

Now that we have that established, this is my point: whose responsibility is it really to ensure that young people in rural areas have sanitary towels? Straight answer: the youth themselves! Let me elaborate, if the government cannot provide you with employment so that you can easily afford to cover the rest of your basic rights such as life, acquirement of basic needs, education, etc, what is to say that making sanitary products a human right will force the government to actually provide them for the young ladies who need them across the country? And if they do, will it not be another escape plan to say we couldn’t build schools as the budget was utilised to ensure that all the young women of our country are supplied with sanitary products to ensure that we promote their human rights? What are the chances that the government will provide sanitary products that are even worth using?

Instead of adding to the plate the government is already not able to handle, why don’t we start taking responsibility for each other’s needs? Yes, we must hold the government accountable for issues of national interest that involve policies that we cannot change. Issues such as quality education in the rural areas, infrastructural advancements and developments, and improving the strength of our economy; amongst other governmental issues. These are the areas that we have little to no control over. We can create our own business with the resources we have within our own communities and employ each other to end youth unemployment; each graduate can become a trustee with their former university and donate as little as R100.00 a month to ensure that the university has money to sponsor students who cannot afford a university education. These issues, like that of providing sanitary towels, are issues that we can handle ourselves so that we have a leg to stand on when we tell the government to govern the country. It is for us to manage our resources and make of them the communities that we would like to see. The government is meant to do just that, govern!

So here’s my proposal, why don’t we approach companies like Always, Lit-Lets and Lifestyle and say to them: “For every set of sanitary product bought, donate R1.00 towards free sanitary towels that will be delivered at schools across the country”. Assuming that 10 of the 49 million South African citizens are to each buy a set of sanitary products as least ten times a year that is R100 million donated towards providing free sanitary items for schools. While this vision may seem too broad, if there be such a thing as an idea too broad, it is surely attainable! If not for the sake of social responsibility, then the brands mentioned above would definitely want to do this for publicity. Either way, it is a win-win situation and the government does not even have to know about it!

Another idea that is closer to home is that other young people, both girls and guys can run sanitary product drives in their respective communities. Imagine a South Africa where the people actually did things for themselves, you can see it right? Now wake up and make it a reality! It doesn’t start far, just one social media campaign with the hashtags #NationalSanitaryProductsDrive #YourRightMyResponsibility can awaken a lot of young South Africans to dedicate three hours of a day in their respective communities to collect as many sanitary products as possible. Be it at a drop off centre or through going from door-to-door. If each suburban community collects at least 500 sanitary towels each, at least one million sanitary towels will not be impossible to expect from each province!

So yes, having sanitary products is important. It is so important that having it written in black and white makes it sound so trivial! It seems like just another thing that we want to get for free; it takes away the context of the child who lives in a rural village with no one but her grandmother and younger brother; and has to walk to a school where other children are dropped up by their parents in expensive cars. Bad as the education may be, that is her only ticket out of poverty yet now she cannot access it because she cannot go to school for a week in each month because she does not have a means of controlling and containing her menstruation. This goes way beyond it being a part of nature and it being embarrassing, it is yet another reminder that she does not have. It reinforces the misconceived notion that she will not amount to anything, it supports the little voice that says ‘you can’t even afford simple pads, how will you ever be a doctor?! Quit while you’re still ahead.’ Allowing this girl that reassurance that she is worthy of being protected and invested in by her peers is a far better message than saying to her that it’s not like you chose to have your periods, someone owes you!  This will show her that it is important to take responsibility for your own development and the welfare of those around you until such a day that South Africa elects a government that can effectively run it.

Now that you’ve read this, play your part!


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