Dignifying an African Girl Child with Isaac Mkhari

by Thandeka Mthethwa

What motivated you to start raising 25000 sanitary pads?

The number of African girl children faced with the inability to access sanitary products is what spearheaded the 25 000 Sanitary Pads Drive. Many of them find themselves having to skip school whenever they’re on their periods – so, the drive is an attempt to curb this harsh reality while raising awareness about the struggles they face to the broader society.

What does this initiative mean to you?

It means everything. I live, breath and eat the drive. I have been involved in such initiatives on a personal and organisational level from an early age, so giving my time and energy to respond to challenges confronting society is always personal to me.

How many sanitary pads have you been able to raise since you started the initiative?

We launched the drive on the 27th of April 2019 (Freedom Day), at Jubilee Mall, and since then, we have been able to raise more than a thousand packs of sanitary pads coupled with more than R10 000 worth of packs in a form of pledges.

Are you planning on expanding and taking this initiative to the rest of South Africa?

Our current focus area is Hammanskraal, however, our outreach is taking place on a national level by utilising social media platforms to reach out to the rest of the country including marketing this drive on all major national media platforms such as Morning Live, Newzroom Afrika, Metro FM, Power FM, etc. With pledges from Limpopo, Gauteng, North West, and Mpumalanga, we are hoping to get more from the rest of the country.

Except donating, what else can people do to assist the girls in SA?

Empowering and uplifting an African girl child through information, sponsorship, necessary resources, etc is vital. We are guided by the words of Mama Dr. Charlotte Maxeke when she said: “We want to give young girls a platform to believe in their talents and realise their dreams, not to have limitations, but equip themselves with confidence and skills to excel.”

How will you be distributing the sanitary pads across the schools and how did you pick out the schools?

The Sanitary Pads will be distributed across 25 schools in and around Hammanskraal in celebrating 25 years of democracy; hence our slogan ‘Celebrating 25 Years of Democracy with Dignity’. The schools will be randomly selected, however, the more disadvantaged schools will be prioritised.

Do you also accept menstrual cups or it is strictly sanitary pads? If yes, will you be doing demonstrations to the schools as to how a cup is used?

Yes, we do accept menstrual cups – the more sustainable the product, the better. In all our activations, we will have demonstrations of how all the various products work. We also have weekly conversations on our Facebook page where we talk anything and everything menstruation and women empowerment for the duration of the drive running from 27th April until 30th September 2019.

I have personally learned a lot from those conversations as a guy and I would encourage everyone to engage in those conversations. We talk about the various products women can use during their periods, how to deal with period pains, etc.

What stigma have you witnessed since you started this drive?

To be honest, there hasn’t been much stigma but rather applause and appreciation. Although comments like: “Mchana you can’t always be talking about sanitary pads and menstruation.” I just don’t take it to heart. Instead, I laugh it off and then conscientize them to the cause.

Are people as receptive and willing to help make the mark? If yes, what has happened that has given you hope that this is possible?

The reception we keep getting is truly overwhelming and encouraging. As I have eluded that in under a month, we have made great progress and people keep on contacting us wanting to donate and pledge. At our launch, the Deputy President and the former MEC of Education in Gauteng, Mr. David Mabuza and Mr. Panyaza Lesufi respectively, both pledged their support to this drive and we hope it was not just for campaigning sake. So far, we have Vanguard Styles, Smart Cups, Gheleza Afrika, Ayana Magazine and Mamelodi Sundowns FC Supporters Branch in Hammanskraal having made significant pledges to this drive.

What do you think males can learn from this initiative?

There’s a lot they could learn from this drive. The first, and most important, thing is that we have an inherent obligation to empower and support women and all marginalised people in society. We should use our privilege as the result of the patriarchal order of things to uplift these groups instead of furthering their oppression in society. Beyond that, we can learn about the menstrual cycle that women undergo and their various products and support we can offer them.

What would you like to echo to everyone?

We would like to make a clarion to all stakeholders of society to support and denote to this drive and help us celebrate 25 years of our democracy by dignifying an African girl child. We all have a role to play and we should never fail to successfully play that role. Again, lets heed the advice of Mama Dr. Charlotte Maxeke when she said: “This work is not for yourselves, kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people but live with them and if you can rise, bring someone with you.”

How do people get in touch with you?

Facebook page: 25 000 Sanitary Pads Drive

Twitter: @MakhandeniLtd and the #25000SanitaryPadsDrive. This is where we post all the information about the drive.

They can also contact me as the campaign manager:

Contact no: 074 332 9848/073 878 5440 (WhatsApp)

Email address: ikmkhari@gmail.com

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