The Cape Navigator

Seaside Community Newspaper

Western Cape

WC Dept of Social Development Continues Commitment to Dignity and Well-being of Girl Learners

Michael Hawthorne

WESTERN CAPE – With the 2024 school year well underway, the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) is reaffirming its dedication to the dignity and well-being of girl learners through its Sanitary Dignity Project. In collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), the DSD has successfully distributed over 3.432 million packs of sanitary pads to learners across the province since the initiation of the project in the 2019/2020 academic year.

Breaking down the distribution figures over the past years reveals the significant impact of the initiative. In the academic year 2022/2023, a total of 27,817 boxes, equivalent to 1,335,216 packets, were distributed. During the current academic year (2023/2024) from the 1st to the 3rd quarter, the DSD has already delivered 25,847 boxes or 1,240,656 packets, with plans to distribute a further 8,734 boxes or 419,323 packets in the last quarter of the financial year.

Since the 2020/21 academic year, the DSD has expanded its reach, increasing the number of beneficiaries from 94,817 learners at 220 schools to an impressive 130,396 learners at 365 schools during the 2023/2024 academic year. This outreach extends to farm schools, special needs schools, and DSD-funded child and youth care centres.

Highlighting the importance of this initiative, Provincial Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, personally visited Dorothea Special School in Stellenbosch this week, a school catering to children with disabilities. The visit aimed to deliver sanitary dignity packs to address the unique challenges faced by girls in these educational settings.

Sister Linda Carelse, the Nurse at Dorothea Special School, expressed gratitude for the donation, stating, “The donation will definitely make a difference in our girls’ personal hygiene as most of our learners are dependent on SASSA grants, and parents struggle to afford to buy them toiletries. I also try to give the girls a packet each month, but we are lucky to have donors supporting us.”

Provincial Minister Fernandez emphasized the broader societal challenges faced by girls from impoverished communities, particularly those with special needs, and urged citizens and the private sector to contribute to the cause. She emphasized, “Girls from impoverished communities already face immense societal and economic challenges, and those with special needs are in an even more vulnerable position. We cannot let a natural bodily function like menstruation be another barrier to their learning. We can all do our part. I call on citizens who can and the private sector to play their role in assisting schools in disadvantaged areas to level the playing field for all girls.”

Monique Mortlock-Malgas, the Spokesperson to MEC Sharna Fernandez from the Department of Social Development, encouraged continued support for the initiative, underlining the collective responsibility to ensure the well-being and dignity of all girl learners in the Western Cape. The commitment of the DSD to this cause remains unwavering as they strive to create an environment where no girl is left behind due to socio-economic challenges.

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