Alexis Sweeney
Alexis Sweeney
South Africa, 2021
My name is Lexi Sweeney, and I am so excited for this 5 month journey in Cape Town, South Africa! I will be a social work intern at School of Hope, a school for vulnerable youth where I will help facilitate group therapy, individual therapeutic sessions, and social/emotional educational sessions.

Fighting Period Poverty

What an Exciting Day!

Wow oh wow how many wonderful things have been happening here in SA. I have already experienced so much personal and professional growth, and I just wish I could share every moment with you all. 

Last week there was one BIG thing that happened at work that was a huge step for global women’s health, and I am incredibly thankful to have been a part of it. 

Thanks to the partnership of two wonderful organizations, MENstruation Foundation and O’Graceland, our school received the first ever sanitary product vending machine(s) in Africa. There were two different vending machines installed into our women’s restroom; one for pads, and one for menstrual cups. Each month, every girl will get one token (for free) to use in the machines, and from those they will get a week’s supply of sanitary products. These machines are environmentally friendly with compostable products, function with zero electricity (which is also necessary in SA because of loadshedding), and are manufactured by local women. The MENstruation Foundation and O’Graceland seek to put these machines in every school in South Africa in order to help fight period poverty with a sustainable solution.

What is period poverty? I’ll start with some stats: 

35% of girls and women in South Africa cannot afford any type of sanitary products. 

5 million girls in South Africa miss school 5-7 days each month.

 

Period poverty is a global issue affecting women and girls who do not have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products and/or are unable to manage their periods with dignity due to societal/ cultural stigmas and sanction. In South Africa, many women have to choose each month between buying 2 loaves of bread for their family or a week’s worth of sanitary products. Girls and women are missing school and work because they do not have access and/or cannot afford sanitary products. Siv Ngesi, co-founder of the MENstruation Foundation, said something very powerful to us, he said, “If men bled once a month, sanitary products would be free. Condoms are free and sanitary products are not, it is a failure of justice.” 

 

Last week there was an assembly held at our school where we got to hear the founders/ directors of MENstruation Foundation speak with many sponsors, influencers, and community members there to help us celebrate the first sanitary product vending machines being installed. The Springbok women’s rugby captain, Babalwa Latsha spoke, there was a performance by a local woman rapper, and demonstrations on how the vending machines work by one of the women who helped manufacture it. Overall, the afternoon was spent with many wonderful people, all celebrating women and celebrating this monumental step to fight period poverty in a sustainable way. The MENstruation Foundation aims to have the sanitary product vending machines in rural areas and in all schools in South Africa, and they plan to have the machines installed in over 100 schools by 2022.

 

Period poverty is a global issue, not just an African issue. When speaking with some people from the States, I heard comments about how thankful they were that period poverty is not a thing in the States. However, it absolutely is still an issue in the States. While it might look different, period poverty still exists in America and in countless other countries as well. These sanitary product vending machines, that are FREE, are the first of their kind in the entire world. History was made at School of Hope last week, and the whole world should know about it and reflect on what sustainably fighting period poverty could look like in their home countries and local communities. Period poverty is not just a small issue for women in Africa, it is a GLOBAL issue for ALL genders.

 

If anyone wants more information, I have linked a couple articles reviewing the instalization day, as well as I have put a link to the MENstruation Foundation’s social media page.

https://mg.co.za/health/2021-04-14-first-sanitary-pad-vending-machine-in-africa-aims-to-end-period-poverty/

https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/feel-good-npos-collaborate-to-launch-sas-first-ever-sanitary-pad-vending-machine-20210414

https://www.instagram.com/menstruationfoundationza/

 

 

Love Always,

Lexi Sweeney

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