The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) aims to make the university more accessible one pad at a time.

The SRC has collected approximately 5000 sanitary pads through its #EndPeriodPoverty drive as at April 5, 2022. These pads will be distributed as ‘menstrual care packages’ to students in need.

Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products and associated facilities required to maintain hygiene during monthly cycles. This can prevent girls and women from attending school or work while menstruating. Civic Space Research Officer, Aarti Narsee, says that period poverty disproportionately affects women from poorer communities.

SRC health officer, Mapula Mohale, told Wits Vuvuzela that period poverty remains an issue on campus as some students do not have sufficient funds to buy pads or tampons on a consistent basis.

Sanitary pads donated to Wits’ SRC. Photo: Tannur Anders

Over 100 students, particularly postgraduates, have approached the SRC to access sanitary pads in the first quarter of 2022. These students have had to rely on the kindness of friends to tide them over.

“It is very sad [because] people do not choose to go on their periods,” said Mohale. Some believe that sanitary products should be free. BCom Economic Science honours student, Georgia Carrington said, “[It]should be a basic human right to have access to these products.” BCom Applied Development Economics honours student, Dhyan Šaravanja said, “[Women] should not be punished for something that is not their choice.”

Sanitary pads should be free in public spaces and university restrooms should have these products readily available, says Wits economics lecturer, Nimisha Naik.

The pads donated to the drive will be placed in vending machines on campus or distributed through the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach programme. Students need to register on Wits’ Student Self-Service Portal to be eligible for support.

The yearlong drive accepts donations of tampons, pantyliners and sanitary wipes. Products can be donated at the SRC Offices (Wits East Campus, Matrix, Floor 2) or during the SRC’s monthly ‘Period Product Trolley Dash’ at Cresta, Rosebank and Newtown Junction malls.

Talks with a potential sponsor are underway and the SRC hopes this initiative will effect lasting change for present and future students.

FEATURED IMAGE: Helping hands: Wits SRC collects sanitary pads. Photo: Tannur Anders