Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is refusing to rest on her laurels! Instead, she’s spearheading a group of influential South African women as they climb Africa’s highest peak in a bid to raise awareness and funding for young girls’ health across South Africa.
As the world prepares to observe International Day of Action for Women’s Health on May 28th, the influential group of women led by Professor Madonsela is hard at work preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Scheduled to summit on Women’s Day, August 9th, the Thuli Madonsela Women’s Day Executive Climb is the second of two summit groups in this year’s annual Trek4Mandela initiative, the first reaching the top on Madiba’s birthday, July 18th.
Trek4Mandela aims to raise enough funds for the Caring4Girls menstrual hygiene and education programme to reach one million disadvantaged girls in 2019 and two million by 2020. Between inception in 2012 and the previous climb in 2018, Imbumba Foundation and Caring4Girls raised funds which helped more than 750 000 girls across SA.
According to research released by Stellenbosch University’s Law Clinic in 2018, 30% of South African female pupils miss school when menstruating because they have limited access to – or simply cannot afford – adequate menstruation products.
A UNESCO report estimates that one in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. Still, other studies show that most girls in Africa miss up to 50 days of schooling each year because they don’t have access to this basic need.
Whatever the figures, it is a situation Caring4Girls hopes to change. Feminist writer and researcher Jen Thorpe last year explored the cost of having a period in South Africa and estimated that the amount the average woman will spend on sanitary products in her life could be between R15,000 and R39,000.
This is why various organisations were calling for an end to taxes on sanitary and other feminine hygiene products – a step eventually was taken by the South African government when Value Added Tax (VAT) was scrapped on sanitary pads in South Africa from 1 April 2019. Previously only 19 basic food items were exempt from VAT.
Poor‚ vulnerable and marginalised women and girls often cannot afford essential hygiene products and are forced to turn to alternative options that are mostly unhygienic and pose serious health risks such as UTI’s, yeast infections, bad odour, toxic shock syndrome and fertility issues.
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