Grootfontein set aside N$36 000 for sanitary pads

Ester Mbathera

The Municipality of Grootfontein has revived its sanitary towel distribution project by allocating N$36 000 of its operational budget towards girls’ hygiene products at local schools.

The project, initiated by the junior council in 2018, went dormant in 2021.

Grootfontein mayor, Talitha Garises explained that the sanitary towels will be distributed among seven schools in the town.

“The initiative was revived to ease the burden on the parents and to help keep the girls in school,” she said.

Megameno Festus, the life skills teacher at Makalani Primary School, is one of the beneficiaries of the initiative.

She explained that there is a great need for sanitary pads because many of the pupils are from poverty-stricken households.

“The children often resort to their socks, tearing pieces of mattresses in the hostel, and old clothes to use as pads. But we try to always cater for them from the school side and from what we receive from donors,” she said.

She said the school has a small budget to ensure that pads are readily available to the pupils while at school.

Festus said that the school provides additional packs to the most vulnerable students when they go on holiday.

While the pad issue may be simple to tackle, Festus said many of the girls do not have underwear to prevent the sanitary towels from falling out.

“We have introduced the Girls Club, where, with the assistance of a volunteer from Shalom Vocational Centre, we teach girls to buy full panties and tights to avoid the pads. But there are instances where some of the girls can’t afford panties because many of them are from farms. Often they have one or two panties,” she said.

With the assistance of donors, Festus said they are still tackling the issue of sporadic absenteeism and school dropouts.

Sanet Steenkamp, the executive director of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, also welcomed the initiative from the municipality.

“The case of Grootfontein municipality shows genuine interest to contributing to the well-being of our children,’’ she said.

Steenkamp said statistics show that, on average, young girls can stay out of school for between 40 and 45 days per year simply because they do not have sanitary pads.

“The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture appreciates this immensely, and it really complements our efforts in our strategic move to make sure that the girl child does not lose school simply because she has her period,” she said.

According to Steenkamp, through the school grant policy and the centralised payment system, the ministry has granted every child an additional $15 to the school.

She explained that these funds are used to purchase sanitary towels for girls and hygiene products for boys.

“Those are our efforts, and we realise that these efforts are truly benefiting our children, especially if we have committed and dedicated principals and teachers who use the money correctly for the purposes intended,” she said.

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