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It’s about Bloody time… we end period poverty

- Wits University

Free sanitary pads available to Wits’ students as SRC launches pilot project.

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The  Wits SRC has launched the Wits100 Centenary Period Poverty Pilot Project, which will see 10 000 sanitary towels made available on campus to Wits students. The project seeks to eradicate period poverty, by upholding female students’ fundamental right to dignity.

Speaking at the launch on 28 October, Wits Chancellor and champion of women’s empowerment, Dr Judy Dlamini applauded the SRC’ initiative and said: “There is hope for South Africa and the continent of Africa. I commend the leadership, hard work and collaboration displayed by these young leaders in ensuring the successful launch of this project.”

Period poverty is a struggle faced by many women and girls in low-income as they battle to afford menstrual products.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about five million menstruators globally do not have access to menstrual materials, adequate education and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) - resulting in extreme period poverty. In South Africa, seven million menstruators miss school, university, or work due to period poverty every month. Period poverty has been described as a form of human rights’ violation and contributes to bigger issues that exacerbate inequalities. Furthermore, it has physical, emotional and mental implications and further exacerbates the stigmas around periods.

Dr Dlamini donated dispensers towards the Wits100 Period Poverty Pilot project. The dispensers will be installed in 40 female bathrooms across Wits University campuses in Solomon Mahlangu House, Central Block, The Matrix, Wits Science Stadium, the FNB building and at the Parktown Education campus. The first tranche of 10 000 sanitary towels has been donated by the Motsepe Foundation, African Fashion International and Eyerus.

Lesego Louw, Wits SRC Deputy President commended Wits University management for supporting the project from its inception to the launch despite the various challenges to date. “This project needs to outlive the incumbent SRC and have a life of its own” Louw explained emphasising the importance of sustainability.

Through supporting and aiding the call to have free sanitary towels at Wits, the university is actively breaking the stigma around periods and safe environment on campus Approximately 75% of the university’s student population receives financial support from the government to pay for their studies. 6273 female students at Wits are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Students on the national bursary scheme come from combined family income is R350 000 or less.

 As such universities reflect society, however, they must provide direction to society when it comes to solving societal problems.

“Wits University takes a bold stance on fighting period poverty, continuing its commitment toward ensuring human rights are upheld most importantly the right to human dignity” declared Jerome September, Dean of Student Affairs.

The celebratory launch was concluded with students gathering in dance taking to the “CUFF IT” TikTok challenge and launching balloons into the air as a sign and commitment to eradicating period poverty.