Sister Namibia raised the issue of menstruation in the youth consultative meeting with the President of the Republic of Namibia on 25/04/18.
We acknowledged that it is deemed an uncomfortable subject, even in Parliament, but that it needs addressing.
In the presentation to the platform from the collaborative entities; statistics from the 2016 youth unemployment by gender stood at 33% for males and 43% for women in urban areas, however that figure stands at 60% for women in rural areas.
We pointed out that lack of sanitary supplies and the inability to afford them forces more girls (than boys) to miss out on school education and solicit for basic products like this.
1. This puts them at risk of teenage pregnancy and or HIV and STD’s (further marginalising them)
2. Reduces their learning and in return
3. Lowers their chances to compete in the economy through decent/quality employment
So we cannot talk about improving the socioeconomic status of especially rural women in isolation without addressing issues like free pads and taxation of menstrual supply products.
Providing the free reusable sanitary pads (SisterPads) is not just a charitable and noble act.
It is vehicle of Sister Namibia to rattle the cage on bigger issue of providing free pads for girls in school across Namibia.
This is a basic necessity and our girl child should not have to be further disadvantaged because of lack of provision.
The President mentioned that his wife got into trouble with religious leaders he had met a day before us; for talking like we (Sister Namibia) do.
Pointing out relations older men have with teenagers that lead to teenage pregnancy and others (an option they sometimes undertake to supply themselves with basic needs, including sanitary supplies).
He however also agreed that it is something neglected even in Parliament, but that it is a reality on the ground whether it makes a selected few or everyone uncomfortable.
We were encouraged to continue our role of community education, advocacy.
Our request was that this be rolled out and led as high level policy influencing discussion in Parliament by our Head of State because it is an issue that must be enacted.
What we are doing at the moment with the SisterPads is putting a bandage on a cracked dam. Our government’s role is to fix the bigger problem.
I don’t care how many people are made uncomfortable by issues of “menstruation”, because quite frankly our discomfort and therefore lack of active discourse does not change the situation on the ground for the girl child!
So yes, menstruation, menstruation, menstruation!
An uncontrolled biological process CANNOT disadvantage one gender.
Sister Namibia will drive the change of “culture”, will change the way we look at “uncomfortable issues/words”, will transform the none-gender-progressive status quo.
We will do this one dialogue at a time.
Let us stand behind Sister as we lobby for free pads for girls in school.
We can do this!
There are means to revise financial resources and allocations to cater for a move like this for Namibia.
By Elsarien Katiti