An encounter with a teenager last year who had started her period but did not have sanitary pads sparked an idea in Thobeka Gumede, a KwaZulu-Natal mother of a teenage girl. “I felt helpless when this young girl explained that her parents could not afford sanitary pads and that she could not go to school. I knew I had to do something.”
Reflecting on her own upbringing, Thobeka had always aspired to become someone who could positively impact her community, no matter how small the contribution. “When I was at school, I said to myself, when I grow up, I also want to donate to a school in need. Now that I am grown up, I did it,” she chuckled, reminiscing about her childhood aspirations.
Driven by her personal experiences and a desire to make a difference, Thobeka decided to donate a sufficient quantity of sanitary pads to a local primary school. Her aim was to ensure that no girl would have to miss school due to the unavailability of sanitary products for an entire year.
As a mother of a teenage girl, Thobeka understood the importance of open discussions about puberty, bodily changes, and menstrual cycles. Her role as a trusted community member led young people to seek her out for advice or to request sanitary pads. When the girl approached her last year, Thobeka felt an urgent need to prevent any young girl from feeling ashamed or missing out on education due to the unaffordability of sanitary pads. This incident served as a catalyst for her to contemplate the issue’s impact on young girls’ education and overall well-being.
On the day of the donation to the primary school, she experienced overwhelming gratitude from the learners, educators, and principal. The positive impact her donations had and the joy she witnessed motivated her to continue her efforts. In fact, Thobeka already had plans to make a second donation next month.
As for financial assistance, Thobeka funded the initiative out of her own pocket. Her family, including her parents, sisters, and fiancé, also contributed to the cause. She described it as a “family affair” and expressed gratitude for the support she received.
In terms of how she feels about menstrual health issues in her community, Thobeka emphasized that it is a cause close to her heart. She empathizes with the struggles young girls face and believes that it’s important to address these issues, and would encourage others who can donate, to do so, as every little action helps.
Passionate about her community, Thobeka believes that the younger generation face different challenges when it comes to discussing menstrual health and believes in creating an open and supportive environment where girls feel comfortable talking about these topics.
“It is a normal thing, do not feel ashamed or embarrassed about menstruation.” She encourages young learners to find someone they trust, whether it’s a teacher or a parent, with whom they can discuss their experiences, issues and problems. Thobeka believes that normalizing conversations around menstruation and providing support is essential for better outcomes for young girls in the country.
If you would like to support the donation of sanitary pads to primary schools, and thereby ensuring no one is absent because of lack of sanitary products, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org