Yonwaba Mbadu is a 23-year-old young woman at the helm of a new sanitary towel drive initiative in Ilinge Township in the Chris Hani District of the Eastern Cape.
Yonwaba hails from Ilinge, near Quee nstown, but currently lives in East London, where she is studying towards a B.Social Sciences degree at the University of Fort Hare.
She is part of the Masimanyane Young Women’s Programme, which took her and five other young women to Mozambique in June 2019.
The programme focuses on doing advocacy work around SRHR and gender-based violence (GBV). It is through this programme that she saw the need to go back to her roots and give back through donating sanitary towels to school girls while also raising awareness on sexual reproductive health and women's rights.
According to the South African Human Rights Commission, the grave lack of appropriate sanitary towels can push menstruating girls out of school, which results in absenteeism and increased dropout rates.
Statistical research by the United Nations confirms that 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school during menstruation, which is an appalling reality. The lack of menstrual hygiene products inflicts indignity upon millions of women and girls.
Growing up in a township, Yonwaba witnessed first-hand how most girls would miss school because they could not afford to buy sanitary towels.
Most of the children growing up in townships are raised by grandparents whose only source of income is social grants.
This means many girls have to literally choose between buying a sanitary towels or a loaf of bread.
Yonwaba has distributed towels to two schools in Ilinge Township - Masikhanye Junior Primary School and Philget Mzazi Senior Primary School - where 130 young girls received three packs of sanitary pads each.
“I started by using my allowance money to buy the pads but I realised it wasn't going to be enough. I then contacted the Imbumba Foundation and received 300 sanitary pads.”
Yonwaba has called on others to launch similar initiatives in their own areas. "A small act of kindness goes a long way."