A learner support agent extends her duties off school premises
Menstruation is generally perceived as a sacred aspect in black communities, that marks a reckoning transition from girlhood to womanhood. However, lack of sanitary pad can make this process unbearable and potentially crush the self-esteem of a girl. Fortunately, a proponent for feminine hygiene who understands frustrations that emanate from not having pads started the Care for Girls initiative.
Her name is Sibabalwe Mda, based in King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape, Mda divulged that working with learners from different backgrounds made her realize that not everyone can afford pads as one would assume.
Under normal circumstances, every girl should be in possession of sanitary towels. Sadly, the nature of their finances hinders them from accessing such an essential.
Mda works as a Learner Support Agent (LSA) in one of King Williams Town’s Primary Schools. She started Care for Girls shortly after the President announced the closure of schools towards the end of March. “After the closure of schools, I envisaged the problems that girls were going to be subjected to in relation to menstruation”, she said.
She disclosed that she was uncomfortable with the notion of sitting at home without carrying out any form of labour. Ultimately, she decided to push for the materialisation of her initiative after she conceived the idea in March. “Because Care for Girls is still in infancy stage, I have only been able to come to the aid of only 50 girls, but sometimes the number exceeds our target”, she elaborated.
According to Mda’s observation of her community, most girls between ages 12 and 17 get their sanitary pads from school. But due to the closing of schools, as a result of the national lockdown, sanitary pads supply ceased. It is for this reason that Mda saw the need to help out. “I saw it necessary to play my part in easing their stress as I personally fathom the frustrations that can manifest as a result of not having sanitary towels”, she explained.
Mda said that some of the girls are usually afraid to tell their parent when they undergo the menstrual cycle for the first time. However, “When we distribute pads, I also encourage them to normalise having conversations with their parents about periods because some of them don’t have pads not as a result of not having money, they are just afraid to ask their parents”, revealed Mda.
One of Care for Girls beneficiaries, who preferred to remain anonymous enthusiastically, revealed that Mda arrived at a critical time when they needed her most. “Sibabalwe came to our rescue because as much as we are familiar with the pain of not having pads, one can never get used to the stress that accompanies that familiarity”. She added that because the nature of menstrual cycles is inconsistent, they sometimes come when they don’t have money.
Another 19 year old girl who chose to conceal her identity echoed similar words of gratitude, “I was elated when I got free sanitary pads because we are barely able to buy them. This puts us under immense pressure as being on periods without pads is emotionally draining”, she said.
Mda has high hopes for her initiative, because she believes it provides hope for many girls in her community, who dread that time of the month when period pains begin to kick in. The melancholic frustration that follows after is slowly becoming a thing of the past since Care for Girls took inception.
“My family, women from my target communities and local supermarket owners have shown tremendous support thus far and I am proud of the gradual progress that we’re making and this is just a beginning”, she concluded.
For more information on how you can bring hope into a disadvantaged teenaged girl’s life by donating to the initiative, contact Sibabalwe Mda on: 072 607 2946
By Vuyokazi Mdlungu