Period poverty: The indignity suffered by girls and why it's everyone's problem

Period poverty is one of the many different aspects of gender inequality - not being able to access sanitary products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation.

Focusing on International Day of the Girl Child, Eusebius McKaiser hosted a panel discussion to highlight the plight of girl children who have suffered this indignity.

The Mina Foundation's founder Zaakirah Mahomed says nearly 3.7 million girls miss school because they cannot afford sanitary products.

Sharing some of the stories she has heard in her work with girls, Mahomed says leaves, rags, newspapers, t-shits are only some of the means used among poor women and girls, to manage their periods.

That's a basic violation of human rights and we can't, knowing this information, sit back and ignore it.

Zaakirah Mahomed - The Mina Foundation

Mohamed says everyone needs to come to the party in order to address the problem.

It is not just a women's issue, it is a men's issue, every human being.

Zaakirah Mahomed - The Mina Foundation

With a focus on some of the systematic issues surrounding access to pads UN Girl Up Club representative Lesego Mosikare explains how men are monopolising menstruation, saying patriarchy plays a huge role.

It is now a monopoly, everybody is making so much money off the concept of menstruation.

Lesego Mosikare, UN Girl Up Club representative

Girls have issues of sanitation, that is another thing that is being forgotten and it just comes to show that patriarchal financial gatekeeping is going to be there.

Lesego Mosikare, UN Girl Up Club representative

Sometimes you get to the toilet and there won't be tissue but there will be condoms, that frustrates me.

Lesego Mosikare, UN Girl Up Club representative

There's so many systematic things that need to be addressed.

Lesego Mosikare, UN Girl Up Club representative

On the shame and stigma associated with menstruation, Umsamo Institute's Siyabonga Mkhize shares how the organisation finds ways in African practices to educate boys on menstruation, as well as address patriarchy and misogyny.

Mkhize says a communal African practice that happens around a women's first period is rarely carried out, suggesting that this contributes to the lack of awareness.

In African culture, he explains, these milestones of growing up were addressed and men were actually involved in the process of menstruation.

It's a practice called 'umhlonyane' which is when a girl has her first period and at that moment your father would slaughter a goat for you.

Siyabonga Mkhize, Social Media and brand manager - Umsamo Institute

He describes how the women in the family would bathe and clothe the girls.

You would swim in the river and the young boys would go down and come up with the young girls. In that instance the whole community was aware that this young girl is coming of age.

Siyabonga Mkhize, Social Media and brand manager - Umsamo Institute

Once we understand culture and ancestral principles behind practices then we can behave differently.

Siyabonga Mkhize, Social Media and brand manager - Umsamo Institute

Here is what boy and girl pupils had to say:

Click on the link below to hear how legislation can help address issues of access...


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