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#FreeToBleed: The sanitary policy is on its way

by: Sheilan Clarke - 18 July 2017

Remember that time we called on parliament and government to prioritise the provision of sanitary products for all? Well, last week we were invited by the Minister of Women, Susan Shabangu to give input on the National Policy Framework on Sanitary Dignity.

It’s been a long time coming since Pontsho Pilane won our Parliament Challenge in 2015 but we’re edging ever so closer to getting concrete commitment from those in power, to ensuring that free sanitary products are provided for everyone. (to read more about why Pontsho called on the provision for free access to sanitary products, click here.)

What went down?

A consultative indaba was held, and was attended by representatives from many government departments including Basic Education, as well as NGOs like Dignity Dreams. The session was interactive and there was plenty of time for comments from the many attendees who are actively ensuring access to these products country-wide.

The minister opened up the indaba, saying, “Given the gender struggle in South Africa, we need to ensure we have access to sanitary products. This policy informs the promise made by President Zuma in his 2011 State of the Nation Address to seek access to sanitary products”.

It was also agreed upon by everyone that this is not just solely an issue of lack of pads, tampons or menstrual cups, but also involves education, as many people, especially girls don’t know what’s happening to their bodies. It’s also a broader sanitation issue, as many schools still don’t have adequate sanitation or running water.

The conversation then extended to women in prisons and those living under bridges who are in desperate need of such basic necessities.

The general consensus from those in the room including Treasury was that these products be locally produced to reduce costs and create sustainable jobs. The quality of the products was also of priority with Shabangu repeatedly asking, “Why must we give the poor things we won’t use ourselves?”

Finally: Together with, we took the opportunity to handover the petition signatures to Minister Shabangu.

Finally: Together with, we took the opportunity to handover the petition signatures to Minister Shabangu.

Who’s set to foot the bill?

National Treasury gave a detailed presentation on the funding aspect of this proposed policy framework. If you’d remember, last year Parliament called them in to answer whether tax could be exempted from these products. They declined this suggestion citing it wasn’t feasible. They now seem to be thinking of other avenues to fund this initiative. As found in the draft policy framework:

“National and provincial government is responsible for the funding of the sanitary products contemplated in this Policy Framework. For the purposes of such funding, national and provincial departments may, with the approval of National Treasury or the relevant Provincial Treasury, as the case may be, enter into a partnership with any company, business or body.”

What are some of the provinces doing?

Various provincial departments were given opportunity to present the work they’re doing. All but the Western Cape had a presentation as the province had not conducted any research nor are they currently doing any work on this issue. They have however indicated that they are busy developing a policy.  

The Free State announced they’ve set aside R18 million for their sanitary towels project. A factory will be built to locally manufacture the pads. A site for the factory has already been found.

What’s a policy framework?

A policy framework is slightly different to a policy in that it’s a guideline for how a policy should play out. In this case, it offers a set of norms and standards for provinces on how to deal with sanitary dignity effectively and accordingly.

What’s next?

The stakeholders present at the indaba has 2 weeks to make final amendments before it gets sent to Cabinet for approval. Once approved, it’s then open for public comment. So keep your eyes peeled on our platforms when we let you know when you can make your voice heard in this policy framework.

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