New Pads Empower Girls

Vaatjie learners with Nora Grose,Nilly Baruch, Liza Adlem and Denise Robinson. Photos: Marnette Meyer

Vaatjie learners with Nora Grose, Nilly Baruch, Liza Adlem and Denise Robinson. Photos: Marnette Meyer

Too poor to afford sanitary products… Seven million South African schoolgirls can’t afford sanitary pads or tampons. So, once a month, when they menstruate, they skip school for a week. And so, the people who are in dire need of education in order to escape the poverty trap miss out on part of their education.

Tuesday morning learners at Vaatjie Moravian Primary School outside Atlantis received gift packs containing special Subz-washable pads and panties. The pads can last up to five years. For the girls who attend this rural school this was a big gift. Not one of the learners attending this school has access to a computer, cellphone or landline.

Liza Adlem demonstrates how the pad locks onto the panty.

Liza Adlem demonstrates how it works.

The gift packs were sponsored by kindly Nilly Baruch, who knows the area well. Baruch, a Jewish lady with family ties in the Balkan, beamed as the grade 5, 6 and 7 learners were given a sex education talk by Subz’s Liza Adlem, before getting their gift packs. Baruch was accompanied by DA councillor Nora Grose and DA MP Denise Robinson. And so an ordinary morning here in the farmlands between Atlantis, Melkbosstrand and Philadelphia turned into one celebrating girl power.

The revolutionary washable pad.

The washable pad that changes lives.

The gift came with sex education
But it was tough on Adlem, as this was the first time she had to present sex education to a class consisting of boys and girls. Adlem did not hold back. She conducted the rapt learners on a whirlwind tour through the human anatomy: Hormones, mood swings, menstruation, body hair, and the most ancient act of all, the sex act, were handled with good humour.

“Have any of you being told about the birds and bees at home?” Adlem asked.
Not one hand was put up.
Adlem: “Who knows what puberty is?”
Boy: “When you get hair under your arms.”
The brave learner was rewarded for speaking up with a ball that lights up.

Vaatjie learners.

Vaatjie learners.

The sex talk moved onto topics such as “When can you start having sex?” Adlem advised, “Finish school, complete your education. ”
“Who of you knows how much a child grant is?”
Various voices piped up with the correct answer.
“See, you know that already,” she laughed. “Now, who of you knows how much Kimbies cost? It costs more per month than a grant for a child!”

An end to terrible trials
The boys were dismissed after the talk so that Adlem could show the girls how the pads work. Subz pads differ in appearance from the traditional white pads sold in shops. They are black, and look more durable and expensive, more like intimate apparel. The sanitary pad has clips while the panties have press studs. They were designed by Sue Barnes, a pattern maker and designer from KwaZulu-Natal, who was horrified when she learnt that impoverished rural girls use rags, newspapers and leaves and sand as sanitary aids.

DA councillor Grose with the learners.

DA councillor Grose with the learners.

Adlem urged the girls to handle the pads correctly, because that way they can last up to 5 years. “Rinse the blood out with cold water. That works the best,” Adlem advised. “Then wash the pad with ordinary soap powder and rinse it again, before putting it out to dry in the sun.”

The session ended with visitors Grose, Robertse and Nellie Baruch

MP Denise Robinson and Nilly Baruch greet the girls.

MP Denise Robinson and Nilly Baruch greet the girls.

urging the girls to “Take care of yourself. Be proud of being a woman.” Baruch emphasised, “Your body is your body.”

And then the girls were free to run to the waiting school bus. It had been waiting for a while for them in the tree lined road outside the school. Somehow it looked like a sign of their innate power.



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