Free sanitary products for indigent women, girls

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, says the department's newly-forged partnerships will enable the release of free sanitary products to vulnerable women and girls in poor communities.

The Minister said this during a virtual mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Wednesday where she outlined the Ministry’s budget priorities for the year ahead.

She said this amid concerns over the lack of access to menstrual health and hygiene products by indigent women and girls, products such as sanitary towels, water and soap, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On our part, the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has contributed to the COVID-19 response plan with a particular focus on mitigating the negative impact of the pandemic on women, youth and persons with disabilities.

“The Department has also partnered with the Department of Social Development, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and WaterAid to ensure Menstrual Hygiene Management is accessible to vulnerable women and girls.

While the United Nations Population Fund is an agency that promotes the rights of women and girls in areas of reproductive health and gender equality, WaterAid is an international NGO that works in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene.

“Furthermore, the Department has been participating actively in government structures to coordinate the response to COVID-19, including key workstreams and the [National Joint Operations]. This is to ensure that interventions are deliberately targeted at these sectors and that these sectors benefit from social and economic relief packages.

“Working with development partners, we will ensure that women in poor communities have access to free sanitary dignity products,” she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane says that government has adopted progressive interventions to alleviate the worst social impacts of COVID-19.

This includes the establishment of homeless shelters; expansion of the provision of psycho-social support services; measures to ensure support for gender-based violence victims, including the declaration of GBV-related services as essential services and strengthening the capacity of the GBV Command Centre.

Calls for communities to unite against gender-based violence

Nkoana-Mashabane said as efforts against gender-based violence are intensified, the fight against femicide is bigger than the government.

“We need communities to join and help us eradicate this pandemic. We would like to call upon our communities to come together against this scourge and expose perpetrators and not turn a blind eye.

“As government, we will continue to improve our response to gender-based violence and femicide in the context of the District Development Model.

“We will ensure that perpetrators are brought to book whilst taking good care of the victims. We will engage all structures of society through on-going dialogues, education and healing sessions. We want to work with communities so that we can get to the root of this pandemic.”