The World Bank defines poverty as ‘a lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to get medical care, not having access to school, not having a job, fear for the future, hunger and trying to survive day-to-day.’ Adding to this grim picture is the plight of many impoverished women and young girls who do not have access to menstrual products (let alone have the ability to afford this vital hygiene product) with accompanying physical, mental and emotional challenges. It is estimated that 30% of South African girls miss up to a week of school every month during their menstruation cycle, leading to many dropping out of school, limiting their ability to enter the formal job market and subsequently feeding the cycle of poverty.
In a bid to stamp out ‘period poverty’, Judy Vilakazi, Regional Corporate Responsibility (CR) Manager, Epiroc South Africa, recently initiated a three-way partnership with Palesa Pads and Harvest Floor which saw the donation of 2000 reusable Palesa Pads to 500 girls at four schools in Limpopo in Q4 2023. Harvest Floor is a Gearvest initiative so it was the obvious choice to select schools near their offices in Mogalakwena that are in dire need of support with water, sanitation, feeding schemes and education. Each of the 500 girls received four Palesa sanitary pads, one of each size/absorbency (MINI, MIDI, MAXI, MEGA), an instructional leaflet containing valuable menstrual health information as well as instructions on how to use and wash Palesa Pad, all packaged in a pretty box.
Judy explains that the initiative started when Harvest Floor invited Epiroc to participate in a golf day, the proceeds of which would go to four schools located in Limpopo Province that were selected by the organisation. “Giving back to local schools is very much aligned with our CSR strategy so we wanted to go one step further by donating reusable sanitary pads to the female learners at these schools. We therefore invited Palesa Pads, with whom we have shared similar initiatives since 2020, to join the partnership.”
Judy says that this is their first collaboration with Harvest Floor. She points out that their mission ties in perfectly with Epiroc’s corporate responsibility guidelines and they are impressed by the work done by the NPO (non-profit organisation) in the Mapela community. Established in 2020, Harvest Floor’s mission is to empower disadvantaged communities in rural areas by providing essential resources within education. “Harvest Floor is committed to creating a world where all individuals have access to the resources within education that they need to thrive,” note Jennifer Mashiane, Marketing Manager and Lorna Enslin, Managing Director. “We envision a future where disadvantaged education centres in the rural areas have sufficient education support and nutritious food, clean water and basic health supplies. We strive to empower individuals in these communities by providing educational opportunities and skills development programs that enable them to break the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future for themselves.”
Founder and CEO of Palesa Pads, Sherie ‘Palesa’ de Wet says, “We have enjoyed working with Epiroc over the past few years, empowering almost 2000 girls over the past three years. In collaboration with Epiroc we have also visited smaller, often forgotten communities and we appreciate Judy’s commitment to disadvantaged communities.” Sherie confirms that since the establishment of the organisation in 2017, 650 000 Palesa Pads have been donated, helping some 130 000 girls during their menstrual cycle.
Palesa Pads (Palesa means ‘flower’ in Sotho, Pedi and seTswana) provides a sustainable solution to menstrual hygiene management as their reusable sanitary pads can be washed and reused each month for up to five years which spans a girl’s entire high school career. These sanitary pads are manufactured from high-quality fabric and contain no chemicals to prevent irritation and unpleasant odours. The core is an absorbent toweling and the entire pad is covered in a strong waterproof fabric for maximum protection, comfort and longevity; all fabrics are completely stain-resistant.
Sherie also points out that the reusable sanitary pads are manufactured locally by Palesa Pads Foundation’s sister organisation, Palesa Pads Pty Ltd. in Meyerton, South of Johannesburg, Gauteng. “We are creating meaningful employment by training previously disadvantaged ladies how to sew the pads.” She adds that Palesa Pads are also better for the environment; because they are washed and reused each month they do not contribute to landfill.
“We want to give our support wherever possible to promote this challenge faced by many schoolgirls across the country and we are honoured that Epiroc saw fit to initiate a partnership with Palesa Pads, giving us the opportunity to help ensure that girls never miss a single day of school due to their menstrual cycles,” affirm Jennifer and Lorna. Judy concludes: “Epiroc is proud to be a partner of such an essential and deserving programme. Education is the most important weapon – it transforms lives. We remain committed to promoting quality education and playing our part in bringing change to young girls’ lives by helping them to stay in school.”
Cornelius Masibe Primary School
Godwin Masibe Primary School
Mamagola Primary School
Podile Primary School