There is an African proverb that says, “If you educate a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a community.” This has made me come to the realisation that period poverty or not having access to sanitary products or essentials during that time of a month cannot solely be a women’s issue. In fact it affects us all, men and women. Having thought it through, I actually consider myself fortunate to have access to sanitary products without having to worry about the costs that comes with purchasing them. While I hold on to a little anger and frustration at using the word “fortunate” to describe being able to access sanitary towels, I know of the skyrocketing statistics of women and girls around the world who are much further from such privilege.
According to Global Citizen, 12.8% of women and girls globally, live within the poverty line and accessing resources to manage their menstruation continues to be a nightmare, and according to UNESCO one out of ten girls in Africa miss school during their menstruation, eventually dropping out. On the other hand, owing to the stigma and lack of knowledge surrounding the issue of menstruation, young girls opt to use old rags and tissue papers to help with the flow for that particular period. In far worse situations, girls faces sexual abuse in their pursuit for money to buy sanitary towels and it even give rise to health issues due to unsanitary practices.
I spoke with Nandipha Khumalo, the founder and owner of My Sister, My Keeper non-profit organisation in Upington in the Northern Cape about her efforts in curbing this ugly trend and strengthening the confidence of young girls through mentorship and educating them about issues surrounding their well-being and womanhood. She says that My sister, My keeper, is a community project for the community aimed at addressing social issues and empower young girls through mentorship and provision of sanitary products.
The organisation started with seven girls in 2014 who were given a task by Nandipha to research the social issues they were faced within the community. The feedback of the research birthed a project called “Pads Me Up”- an initiative created to fill the gap where there was a lack of sanitary towels amongst young girls.
“Due to financial constraints at the time, My sister, My keeper could only make promises that they will fill the gap of the lack of sanitary pads and other hygienic essentials to young girls. Through outreach, businesses came through and the community also assisted where they could, today we have a sustainable project that has been running without fail from 2014,” said Nandipha.
Through the Pads Me Up project we give girls in the community the means to hygienically care for themselves while on their menstruation so that they can be able to attend school without having to worry about the leaks from rags and other materials they use in the absence of sanitary pads. This programme has also been able to teach girls to identify gaps whenever there is a lack and eventually ignite the desire of doing charitable work even in their own capacity.
Having learned of how My sister, My keeper started and been able to run a sustainable project for over six years, it is without a doubt that if we harness the power of coming together as one to contribute to any cause that is close to our hearts, the world will definitely become a better place and gender equality can be achieved much quicker than we had ever imagined. It is unsung sheroes like Nandipha Khumalo who continues to inspire hope in the communities that they live in and further encourage others that they can make a difference, one girl at the time.
To support the organisation, you can connect with them through their Facebook page: My sister, My keeper. For monetary donation you can donate using the account details below. All the proceeds benefit girls residing in Upington in the Northern Cape Province with hygienic essentials.
Account Name: Kasi Collaborative Hub
Account Number: 10138726459
Bank: Standard Bank