According to UNICEF, one in 10 school-going girls in Africa misses school or drop out because of a lack of access to sanitary products.
Many girls come from low-income families who can’t afford sanitary products and will often not go to school when they are menstruating. This affects their work and potential.
Now two London-based Rotary clubs have become involved in a joint project supporting young girls in South Africa.
The Pall Mall and Newham Rotary clubs have become partners in Project Dignity which has distributed thousands of reusable Subz pants and pads in packs to girls in needy schools and communities across South Africa.
Subz pads are washable pads and panties which can be re-used. The panty is made from 100% cotton and the pads are constructed from five layers of hydrophilic fabric.
Brenda McCann, project coordinator for Project Dignity, explained: “Menstruation is not only a woman’s issue, but also a public health issue.
“The purpose of Project Dignity is to empower girls to reach their full potential by keeping them at school.
“We don’t just go in and drop off the products, we actually talk to the girls about puberty, menstruation and about the changes that happen to their body, as well as how to care and look after their Subz product, because it can last for 3-5 years.”
At the heart of the operation is the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One which has been supporting Project Dignity since January 2015.
The southern cluster of the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One, based in Port Alfred, supplied Subz pack to Shaw Park Combined School, which resulted in an 80% reduction in absenteeism.
This success spurred the southern cluster to expand the project to more schools in their area.
The purpose of Project Dignity is to empower girls to reach their full potential by keeping them at school.”
To achieve this, the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One successfully applied for a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation, in partnership with a number of Rotary clubs, including the two London clubs, as well as the Rotary clubs of Grossfehn, Witmund and Aurich in Germany, Türi in Estonia and Kenton-on-Sea in South Africa.
The Rotary E-Club of South Africa One also hosted seminars in Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea to familiarise teachers with Project Dignity and discuss the problems of absenteeism, pain management and bullying.
So far, 3,200 packs have been distributed to underprivileged children by the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One. Some of the packs were distributed by Interact clubs, whose members explained the use and care of the pads.
Hans Hon, from the Rotary E-Club of South Africa One, felt that it was important to partner with the Interact clubs because the girls are of the same age as the beneficiaries who understand the problem.
For more information on Project Dignity, visit their website.