The Menstrual Truth – When Dignity Comes at a Price

By Nombulelo Fox

Menstruation-gift

When one thinks of menstruation or what is now commonly referred to as “period”, feelings of happiness and satisfaction are nowhere near the feeling of disgust and discomfort that many have to endure. Plenty of girls and women experience this process of womanhood in different ways – some painful while others are painless. Sure the odd ibuprofen, Nurofen, imbiza (traditional mixture for ailments) and hot water bottle will help ease the pain, but what about those who don’t have access to those remedies, let alone the actual sanitary pads?

Fortunately for many of us, we grew up knowing that sanitary pads would be provided for by our parents. Either that or we turned to our schools who would often have the usual “menstrual shows” where companies would come in and teach us about a menstrual cycle and leave us with some to use. As much as it should be a right for all women to have access to pads or tampons, the reality is otherwise.

Sanitary pads and tampons are flipping expensive!!!

Granted that organisations which produce these intimate products need to make a profit at the end of the day, but should it not trigger that not a lot of people can even afford a pack of 10? That those who cannot afford to buy them skip on so many days at work or school until their cycle is complete? It’s tough.

While I can understand the business aspect of it all, tampons and sanitary towels are taxed just like all other non-essential items. Natasha Preskey describes this as women “being tolled for having a uterus” in her article here. Her statement comes after a petition in the UK was created to have what is called “tampon tax” removed from all tampons and pads that were in stores. This would make the products more affordable but that women would have the dignity of being secure (from leakage freakage) when their period came.

Although Preskey’s article speaks about the matter in reference to the UK community, one needs to be cognizant that if people in first-world countries are complaining surely people in third world countries are feeling the financial burden twice as much. According to Stuart Lewis’ article titled South Africa: The Price of Sanitary Pads Is a Tax On Womanhood (here) he states that South Africa accounts for around 7 million girls who cannot afford sanitary pads/tampons. That is 7 million to many.

Millions of health risks.

Millions of girls not being educated.

This shouldn’t be the case. Instead, we need to have the government involved to help NGO’s which try to assist disadvantaged girls by donating sanitary products on a monthly basis. An even better idea would be for the Department of Health to find a way in which they could produce tax-free sanitary products. The same way that Choice condoms were produced to lessen the spread of HIV/AIDS, this should be a good cause to pay attention to. If these products were created, imagine the decrease in girls being absent from school. This means they’ll be getting educated without worrying about health issues and their confidence will skyrocket because they’re way more comfortable and secure than ever before.

So what will it take for organisations and the government to notice that 7 million girls are struggling five days a month on average? With their dignity already lost by having them use old rags and newspapers to prevent leaking, when will someone calm the storm in Parliament and actually speak about a matter that is more prevalent and has an impact in the future of our country? No woman should see their womanhood as a burden. After all, women are the foundation of our country. If they are not nurtured from a young age, what will the future look like if it’s not dealt with now?

**NB**

There has been a huge movement created to have people donate sanitary products in public bathrooms of either their institutions, communities or workplaces. This encourages girls and women to take some if they need them and cannot afford them. Even one sanitary pad goes a long way. Get involved.  

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