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South African Menstrual Health Activists Push for Formalized National Intervention Through New Bill

By Tamsin Metelerkamp

Nokuzola Ndwandwe, Founder of Team Free Sanitary Pads and other protesters in South Africa (Photo: Development Diaries)

Women and girls across South Africa continue to suffer, in terms of health and opportunities, due to a lack of access to menstrual products and policy protections. Menstrual health rights activists, led by nonprofit Team Free Sanitary Pads, are putting pressure on the government to formalise its response through the creation of a Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Bill.

Menstrual health rights activists are calling on the South African government to treat menstrual health as a human rights issue. In a petition started by the nonprofit Team Free Sanitary Pads (TFSP), the state is called upon to formalise its approach to the issue through the creation of a Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management Bill. The petition, which has more than 40,000 signatures, and a memorandum of demands supported by more than 31 organisations were initially delivered to government representatives on 26 August 2022 during a peaceful march to the Union Buildings led by TFSP. On 16 August 2023, after a year of no discernible progress, TFSP and its partners have formally petitioned the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, through Speaker of the National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, seeking an urgent motion for a Menstrual Health Rights Bill. They are awaiting a response.

"One of the key factors that we feel is very important for a Menstrual Health Rights Bill... is that we establish structure in terms of getting buy-in from the public sector to invest in menstrual health and hygiene management," said Nokuzola Ndwandwe, founder of TFSP. "We... feel the Sanitary Dignity [Policy] Framework...


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