I am the first woman in my immediate family who’s gone to university. Going back to apartheid, education for people of colour was not prioritised and few made it to university.
Huge inequality exists when it comes to class and race in South Africa and it piqued my interest in politics. Life is especially difficult for girls and women. Many of them struggle to access their basic rights – food, education and even sanitary products. You can’t even talk about menstruation, let alone whether you can afford sanitary products, so girls suffer in silence. It’s dehumanising.
My friends and I are trying to change this, through our #WorthBleedingFor campaign. Period poverty exists, especially at university. Everyone thinks tertiary education is a luxury, but it’s not. Students sleep in the library, they line up to receive grocery packs, while access to sanitary pads, while it remains a taboo, exists. We’re pushing for universities to install sanitary pad dispensers in bathrooms, we’ve contacted the local government to provide free pads for girls in schools and we’re encouraging girls to speak about their experiences.
Seeing people take action feels good. The change is gradual, but it’s exciting. Just recently, a group of girls made a video about our campaign. Knowing we’d reached out and had an impact was amazing.
There is power in numbers and young people must work together. I’ve met with national and global groups of young activists, who are facing similar issues, and it’s mind-blowing to learn how we’re all trying to tackle them!
Haafizah, 22, South Africa