Schoolgirls get free sanitary pads

Girls who attend Batavia School of Skills received sanitary pads through a project started by a ward councillor. From left are Dawn Gottgens, Fatima Adonis, Kashiefa Jonathan, Hlelokuhle Ntunja, Esteleen Meyer, Razaan Salie and Ward 58 councillor Sharon Cottle.

Female pupils at Batavia School of Skills in Claremont have one less thing to worry about thanks to a project which has provided them with free sanitary pads for the past year.

The initiative was started by Ward 58 councillor Sharon Cottle, who reached out to local businesses and residents for support last year.

The girls at Batavia received another allocation of pads on March 8, International Women’s Day, and Ms Cottle will now be handing the project over to the Harmony School Foundation, which assists girls from 12 to 18 at underfunded schools with free sanitary pads.

Ms Cottle said after speaking to the school nurse last year, they had identified Batavia as a beneficiary.

They collected R7 000 after an appeal was made to the ward and a supplier for the pads was then found.

Other schools were contacted but Batavia was the only one which showed interest, said Ms Cottle.

As her project was coming to an end, she started looking for more support with the sanitary pad drive and came across Dawn Gottgens, a resident in her ward who co-founded the Harmony School Foundation in 2016.

Ms Gottgens said they would still be providing free sanitary pads to Batavia every month.

The Harmony School Foundation aims to make sure girls stay in school and not fall behind on academic work as a result of not having sanitary pads when they are menstruating .

Ms Gottgens said: “When we take on the school, we take on the school for at least a year because we think that if we are going to supply the girls, it has to be constant, so we set a date and every month we supply the girls on that date.”

Many of the Batavia girls were appreciative when they received the sanitary pads in the assembly hall last week.

The school nurse and teacher, Sue Wilson, spoke about how an initiative like this could make a difference in the girls’ lives.

“The biggest impact that it will have is that it removes some of the financial pressure from the parents.

“A lot of our learners are not living with two parents; some are from single parent households or living with aunts and grannies and it is expensive for whoever is looking after them.”

She said the girls could now come to school more prepared without having to feel the anxiety of getting their periods when they did not have sanitary pads.

Hlelokuhle Ntunja, who is a level 3 pupil at Batavia School of Skills, showed her gratitude on behalf of her classmates.

“I would like to thank the people who came to our school for giving us the pads because some of us really need it because not all of us can afford it.”

As Ms Cottle hands the project over to the Harmony School Foundation, she will be monitoring their progress and if she identifies schools with similar needs she will contact the foundation.

The Harmony School Foundation also assists schools in the Garden Route, Kraaifontein, Wallacedene and Gugulethu.