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Menstrual Health Rights Activists embarked on a peaceful march under #ItsAboutBloodyTime from the Union Buildings in Pretoria to the Department of Women, Youth and Persons Living with Disabilities and a simultaneous peaceful walk were demonstrated in Cape Town from the CBD to Parliament

Department of Women, Youth and Person’s with Disabilities (DWYPD) response to August 26 Menstrual Rights Peaceful Walk Memorandum Demands 

On August 26 2022 Menstrual Health Rights Activists embarked on a peaceful march under #ItsAboutBloodyTime from the Union Buildings in Pretoria to the Department of Women, Youth and Persons Living with Disabilities and a simultaneous peaceful walk were demonstrated in Cape Town from the CBD to Parliament. Led by Change.Org petition starters, Campaign Organiser and founder of Team Free Sanitary Pads Nokuzola Ndwandwe and founder of FemConnect Asonele Kotu.

A Memorandum representing over 31 organisations with listed demands was delivered and signed by the Acting Director General in the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Shoki Welhemina Tshabalala in Pretoria. A #TeamFreeSanitaryPads petition calling for the South African Government to recognise Menstrual Rights into Law with over 30 000 signatures was also presented on the same day. The Department was given 15 days to respond to the many listed demands and on the 6th of September 2022, a meeting was called by the Department representatives to engage local NGOs as well as Menstrual Health Rights Activists providing the first response, of what would be ongoing consultations on the direction of Menstrual Health and Rights in South Africa.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has since responded from the first meeting consultations with a letter signed by the Director General Advocate Mikateko Joyce Maluleke inviting the 31 organisations and Menstrual Health Rights Activists to join the SACMHM (South African Coalition for Menstrual Health) and the Department admits to not having catered for all women, young girls and all Menstruators “We are in agreement at this stage government has not been able to reach the length and breadth of the women and girls in the country.”

“Although the meetings were positive and demonstrated the Department’s commitments on taking needed urgent steps on our Menstrual Health Rights Memorandum Demands together with the four-year-old ongoing petition calling on the Government to recognise Menstrual Rights into Law. There is still more consultations needed to ensure we are all on the same page together with the Government, Members of Parliament, Civil Society and Menstrual Rights Activists in general. This is on the debates discussed in the September 6th meeting on a Menstrual Rights Law through a Private Members Bill.” Said Nokuzola Ndwandwe (Founder of Team Free Sanitary Pads NPC)

We appreciate and acknowledge the prompt response from the DWYPD in acknowledging that they are aware that more still needs to be done. The positive outcomes from the conversations and debates can be seen as a stepping stone toward the right direction. We acknowledge and appreciate the invite to all 31 organisations to be a part of the SACMHM (South African Coalition for Menstrual Health) the representation of all relevant stakeholders (civil, public and private) will enable a cohesive and comprehensive approach that looks beyond school distribution of sanitary products but one that addresses, sanitation, economic and expansion of distribution channels beyond schools in quantile 1-3. 

The conversations around the Menstrual Rights Law and a Bill however should continue because we need to find long-term sustainable solutions that can be adopted into our country’s legislation for future generations. We look forward to working together with the DWYPD and representing the communities we serve in the SACMHM said Asonele Kotu (Founder of FemConnect)

“The positive response from the DWYPD is a  promising step in working collectively in tackling menstrual health challenges in an effort to prioritise making menstrual products accessible to complement broader efforts to expand on education, sanitation, infrastructure and effective implementation strategies. The DWYPD has been transparent in its capabilities and limitations with the next steps in engaging other organisations and stakeholders to build capacity in successfully addressing the very pertinent and urgent matters in this regard” said Fatima Kathrada (Founder of Women’s Health by Fatima Kathrada)

“We acknowledge the timely response and cooperation from the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. We came to a conclusion in the September 6th meeting that an intervention is required to bring various stakeholders on board, such as the Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Social Development, Department of Water and Sanitation, Private sector, and other organisations dedicated to gender equality. As a progressive step toward a better and sustainable tomorrow for Menstruators in South Africa. The DWYPD suggested that these matters will be further deliberated in various committee meetings, such as Menstrual Health Coalitions and various Task team forces. Therefore, more voices and solutions will emerge from various places. So much more still needs to be done, this includes the main thing which is to legislate Menstrual Health Rights into Law, a Menstrual Health Bill is needed in South Africa.” Said Lucy Pearl Khofi (Founder of Women’s Health Ekklesia NPO)

“We are looking forward to strengthening the SA Menstrual Health Coalition for it to fulfil its mandate given to it by the DWYPD. We are getting universities, churches, NGOs, and student governing bodies all involved. We are here to assist the DWYPD with the realities of how they can go about the implementation of the Sanitary Dignity Program, make sure the DWYPD gets the details right in relation to data collection and the realities on the ground, that the Sanitary Dignity Program increases local manufacturing capacity, gives birth to new entrepreneurs and businesses, and we are here to bring civil society and the various resources from civil society together, to bring about a full implementation of the Sanitary Dignity Program where we leave no one behind. We are indeed on the path to making history. We want South Africa to be the 2nd country in the world and the 1st country in Africa, to have a Menstrual Health Bill put into Law, that declares free sanitary products for all”, said Toko Masemola (Team Free Sanitary Pads)

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities has since – amongst others – committed to distributing the Memorandum further to the various Departments. “As in overall essence, our asks are urgently calling on Government to recognise Menstrual Health as more than just a hygiene issue, but a Health and Human Rights concern which needs a legislation as well as structure so to receive buy-in from various socio-economic spheres, not just Government alone, and we can possibly see a Menstrual Health Rights Leave as part of transformative policies in the workplace.” Said Nokuzola Ndwandwe.

Latest update from Department of Women, Youth and Person’s with Disabilities (DWYPD) response to August 26 Menstrual Rights Peaceful Walk Memorandum Demands #WeGotUgirl #EndPeriodPoverty #Itsaboutbloodytime

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