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Published on: 17/02/2014

Barnes, from Cowies Hill in KwaZulu-Natal, founded the project after she learned how many girls in poor communities skip school while they menstruate.

Lacking money to buy sanitary products, many South African school girls don’t attend class during menstruation.

They also put themselves at risk of infection by using unhygienic alternatives to sanitary pads, such as newspaper or even sand and leaves. As a result, millions of girls miss up to a quarter of their school days.

“My youngest daughter, who attends a remedial school due to her dyslexia, came home with appeals from her school for sanitary pads and panties,” says Barnes. “I went to the school to find out what it was all about, and discovered just how many South African girls skip school while menstruating.

I immediately thought of my own daughter. If she missed a week per month of school there is no way she would catch up. It’s tragic that anyone in their teen years should be faced with this dilemma.”

Barnes realised that donations of sanitary products would not provide a sustainable solution to this profound yet largely hidden social challenge. After much experimentation and several trial runs, she created a pair of panties with a clip-on, reusable pad which ensures the girls need never worry about running out of this essential item.

The pad is fully washable, can last for up to 5 years and has SABS absorbency approval. While handing out Project Dignity’s Subz packs, Barnes also gives the girls a unique set of education sessions on puberty, menstruation, personal hygiene, sexual health and HIV.

Source/complete article: Women24, Feb 10, 2014.

Photo: Sue Barnes displays the Subz panty pack she has designed for girls who cannot afford sanitary products. Picture: Marilyn Bernard

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