Period poverty, or the inability to afford menstrual products, is a serious issue in both wealthy and developing countries such as South Africa, which is frequently accompanied by school absence.
This, along with the shame, confusion, gender stereotypes and cultural taboos that can cause menstrual health needs to go unmet, was a spotlight topic among hundreds of Soweto learners who attended the 2023 edition of Procter and Gamble’s Always Keeping Girls in School program in Soweto on Friday.
The event was held at Thutolore Secondary School in Meadowlands to mark World Menstrual Hygiene Day, observed annually on May 28.
Popular South African choreographer Bontle Modiselle, joined keynote speakers from P&G and the Department of Health who shed light on the significance of menstrual health, tackling social taboos, and raising awareness about the challenges faced in accessing menstrual products.
Speaking to NOWinSA, Modiselle said promoting good menstrual health and hygiene management is an important part of her life as both a woman and an entertainer. “I know it can get awkward sometimes to speak about these things, but we need to be there for each other as women. It’s important to share as much information and knowledge as we can that can help break stigmas that exist around women and young girls experiencing their menstrual cycle.”
She added: “The truth is it’s often girls in needy communities and public schools such as these that experience problems of period poverty and disadvantages of not being able to access the type of information they need so that they understand their journey as they grow into their womanhood. So it’s important that we stand in the gap to help young girls understand the changes that happen in their bodies, and ensure they have the tools they need to navigate their life journey.”
P&G doubles down efforts to end period poverty
The revolutionary #AlwaysBloodSisters forms part of P&G’s ongoing Always Keeping Girls in School, which is in support of the World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
This year the theme is “Making Menstruation a Normal Fact of Life by 2030” and speaks directly to P&G and Always’ mission to promote awareness and challenge the stigmas around menstrual hygiene. “As a brand we recognise that menstruation should never be a barrier to pursuing your dreams and your education, that’s what we are here for today,” Vice President and General Manager for P&G South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, Alicia Eggington said addressing the crowd.
“Our latest research indicates that in as many as 1 in 10 girls can miss school in most of the day when they have their periods because of the associated low self-confidence and lack of sanitary products. We believe it’s our responsibility collectively to dismantle these barriers so that every girl can embrace her education,” Eggington added during a one-on-one interview with NOWinSA on the sidelines of the event.
“We started this program over 15 years ago, and we have since donated over 30 million pads to over one million girls in Africa so that they can commit to their education. We also provide education around period and puberty hygienic to our girls. And we don’t stop there, in fact even this morning we’ve just conducted puberty education to our boys so that they can become the best men they can be.”
P&G also announced the official launch of the groundbreaking #AlwaysBloodSisters social media intiative in South Africa, which forms part of the Always EPP (End Period Poverty) campaign. The initiative highlights the cultural attitudes that require girls and women to maintain secrecy and silence regarding menstruation, which contribute to the experience of menstrual shame and stigma. “Being able to recognise that it’s normal is part of the mission behind the campaign this year.
“The goal is to normalise periods and make it part of our everyday conversation, and dispel the shame or embarrassment it’s associated with,” Eggington further added.
The initiatives form part of P&G’s programs to support the broader social fabric. South Africans looking to donate sanitary pads or learn more about the Always EPP campaign can visit the Always Africa website here, or they can follow the #AlwaysBloodSisters hashtag on social media.