KwaZulu Natal’s (KZN) Department of Education in South Africa has launched a programme to distribute free sanitary towels to schoolgirls to keep girls in school during their menstrual cycle.

Periods are a natural process, which is a part of every girl’s life. However, for many years, lack of sanitary towels has been forcing girls from poor backgrounds to skip classes in KZN, affecting their overall performance. There are many cases where girls are forced to drop out of school because they would have missed classes.

A document signed by Dr. E.V. Nzama, head of Education Department in KZN, revealed that the department has initiated and launched the project for the provision of sanitary pads to indigent girl learners in selected quintile 1-4 schools in grade 4-12.

According to the circular from the KZN department of education, the first packs of sanitary pads will be distributed to 2,992 schools beginning this month (February, 2017). Schoolgirls will receive a pack of pads from a school official each month. Initially, the schools principles had been trained on the provisional of sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

This initiative seeks to reduce the drop-out rate of girl learners — caused by missing out on school, due to not being able to afford sanitary pads, the document reads.

According to UNICEF, one in ten schoolgirls in Africa miss classes or drop out completely due to their period. In some cases girls substitute pads or tampons for less safe options such as rags, newspaper, or bark, during their menstrual cycles, which has health implications on their lives, with the possibility of catching infections related to poor vaginal hygiene.

This initiative could make a huge difference in young girls’ lives in South Africa.

In South Africa sanitary pads are expensive, often out of reach for girls from poor backgrounds, the families struggle to afford basic needs for their children.

How the sanitary pads will benefits the girls’ education in KZN

The provision of pads to schools could have a huge and positive impact on girls’ education. There is hope that girls in the selected schools will not miss classes during their menstrual cycles. Considering that missing school has been linked to poor performances, and school dropouts, there is hope that the initiative will lead to improved attendance and better grades. The project will also reduce the barriers that limit and hinder girls’ educational access in the province.