The #HappyFlow Campaign recently presented a Call to Action for the provision of free sanitary pads in schools to members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum of young women activists from DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Katswe, through the Pepeta Africa, a network of young women SRHR activists, recently presented a Call to Action to parliamentarians in the Southern Africa region to put in place measures that promote access to free sanitary wear.
With support from Hivos Southern Africa’s sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programme (funded by Ford Foundation), Katswe launched the #HappyFlow Campaign to push countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to recognise menstrual hygiene products as a basic need, which should be provided for free.
The key objectives of targeting the lawmakers:
Create an understanding that the menstrual cycle is a natural experience for any woman and girl, which cannot be wished away, and should not prevent them from pursuing their education
Make it compulsory for schools to offer quality free sanitary wear to their female students
Stop taxing sanitary wear
According to Katswe, access to clean sanitation facilities and affordable/free menstrual supplies is fundamental to women and girls living a life of dignity and enjoying their human rights.
“Many girls will miss days of school when they get their periods – and ultimately, her school grades will be affected, and she will not proceed to high school, or college. And when she is idle and sitting at home – the pressure to get married will mount,” said Talent Jumo, Katswe Sisterhood Director to the parliamentarians.
“As Pepeta Africa, we are appealing to SADC governments to make it mandatory, and provide resources, so that sanitary pads can be found in schools. And I’m not talking about one box that will be guarded jealously by one fierce senior woman who is feared by every girl in the school- the pads will have to be accessible. Just like toilet paper. Our recommendation is for the Ministers of Education, and Health in our countries to embrace the sanitary pads in schools agenda, make it mandatory, and monitor. Meanwhile, the Ministries of Finance should ensure that this element is budgeted for clearly,” she said.
Jumo added that menstrual hygiene is critical component of overall sanitation, and girl’s and women’s dignity. It will enable girls to participate in processes equally.
“Girls are being left behind because they are girls- and our reproductive roles require us to menstruate. Please let us not punish our girls because of their girlhood, because they go through a normal monthly cycle. Let’s stand up and do something. Let’s not ignore the girl’s plight. Let’s give our girls a chance to experience a Happy Flow! Let’s ensure girls get access to free sanitary pads in Schools,” said Jumo.