Since lockdown restrictions were imposed, there are attempts to assist the impoverished through food parcels and grants. But a group of the population has not been prioritised – young girls and women who cannot afford sanitary products. 

 It is an essential  

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) Lenasia Youth Club saw this and decided to launch a sanitary pad campaign in response to Covid-19 lockdown regulations. 

“In the south of Johannesburg, this issue is especially prevalent amongst many underprivileged communities. Covid-19 resulted in a nation-wide lockdown, which further perpetuates the dangerous reality many young menstruators find themselves [in],” says chairperson of the AKF Lenasia Youth Club, Nabeelah Khan. 

The campaign, which is running across nine communities in the south of Johannesburg, has partnered with the Lenasia Community Action Network (CAN) initiative and local sanitary pad manufacturer, Eternity pads. 

To date, 429 young girls have received pads, with more expected to benefit through the partnership. 

Khan adds, “We are looking to distribute 500 000 pads over the… next few months. As we are trying to obey Covid-19 regulations, our campaign has been designed to have a strong digital presence. Our social media posts are designed to educate people on the issue and bring attention to our campaign. 

Maintain menstrual health for all  

According to the Mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 and menstrual health and hygiene brief by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef), the Covid-19 pandemic will have secondary impacts on girls’ and women’s ability to manage their menstruation and their health. With an estimated 1.8 billion girls, women, and gender non-binary persons menstruating, millions of menstruators across the world cannot manage their monthly cycle in a dignified healthy way, it says.  

Where gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services often cause menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) needs to go unmet. 

The Unicef brief also highlights that health care workers be given ‘additional essential considerations’ as they face challenges managing their menstruation, which compromises not only their health and dignity, but also the ability of the health system to deliver. 

Some of these challenges faced by health care workers include: 

  • Facility managers are not aware of and/or do not prioritiseMHHneeds of female health care workers. 
  • Lack of documented contextual evidence of MHH experiences and challenges of women in health care settings, which may differ from context to context.
  • Lack of menstrual hygiene materials for healthcare workers provided by health systems. 
  • Putting on and removingpersonal protective equipment (PPE)prevents quick changing of menstrual hygiene materials, leading women to bleed into protective suits, suppress menstruation through the use of oral contraceptive pills or potentially miss days of work. 
  • Lack of access to wash facilities, preventing women from managing basic hygiene including menstrual hygiene while at work.
  • Pain during menstruation may make it challenging to work.

Further than just sanitary wear  

Academic and menstruation activist, Candice Chirwa of Qrate, a non-profit organisation that focuses on ensuring that young people are educated on menstruation, says that a lot still needs to be done in the topic. 

“There has been a pivotal shift in the way society has engaged on the topic of menstrual health in the recent year. However, there is still a lot to be done to debunk the taboo that still exists in our communities and I honestly want to continue with menstruation workshops to change this biased narrative. It has been critical to educate the next generation about menstrual health in a safe, interactive and fun environment, on its importance and normalise the topic thereby demystifying the taboo associated with it. 

Chirwa believes that educational material on menstruation should be included in the distribution of sanitary pads during the pandemic. 

“I think there needs to be educational matters offered when companies and government distribute sanitary resources so that the aim of these distributions are not solely focused on providing resources but also destigmatising the menstrual taboo through socially distancing. So providing menstruation books/pamphlets etc will allow for menstruators and the community to separate fact from fiction during the pandemic,” she adds. 

The AKF Lenasia Youth Club realises the dire needs for menstrual freedom, especially for young girls who miss school as a result of lacking sanitary products, and is looking to provide menstrual cups for sustainability. – Health-e News  


For more information on Covid-19 in South Africa, you can call the toll-free line on 0800 029 999, or you can send a message that says “Hi” on WhatsApp to the number 060 012 3456. You can also visit the SA Coronavirus website.