Minister Fernandez welcomes launch of Sanitary Dignity Project | Western Cape Government

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Minister Fernandez welcomes launch of Sanitary Dignity Project

22 September 2020

It is with great pleasure that the Provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) welcomes the official launch of the Sanitary Dignity Programme in the Western Cape. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools, the initial launch of the programme was delayed. 

The provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) is excited to be collaborating with the other provincial government departments, namely, the Departments of Health, Education and provincial Department of Public Works.

As part of DSD’s first delivery phase which commenced on Friday 18th September 2020, a total of 1.932 million pads were delivered to approximately 90 000 female learners in 221 schools across the Western Cape.

The Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez said, “I am pleased that thousands of female learners are being provided with sanitary resources that are essential to their well-being and dignity.

Despite progress being made in achieving gender equity in South African society at large, it is female learners who remain the most discriminated against in accessing education, and within education systems.”

Minister Fernandez added, “The area of menstrual hygiene has only been mentioned in a limited way, through ambiguous allusions or brief references that fail to develop a cohesive approach. This is largely due to a combination of the taboo status of menstruation, in part a legacy of a patriarchal culture and the disempowerment of women living in poverty.”

Minister Fernandez continued, “More work is needed to fully understand the taboo associated with menstruation, in order to effectively break the silence, and to advance work toward the realisation of women’s rights and an understanding of gender equality that enables women to succeed.” 

In 2019, the Provincial Cabinet and Provincial Treasury identified the Department of Social Development as the lead department for the implementation of the Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework. The Minister and Head of Department for the DSD were designated to take responsibility for the programme and to establish the Provincial Sanitary Dignity Committee to oversee the implementation of the programme.

Following an analysis of 2016-2018 data regarding school attendance and retention rates of female learners from Grades 4 to12, schools in Q1-5 were identified to participate in the programme These schools include no-fee paying schools and fee-charging schools. It was decided that the project should prioritize schools in rural areas and include special needs schools-where the need is greatest.

The Sanitary Dignity Programme will be enhanced by the inclusion of this aspect in the Life Orientation programmes offered by the Department of Education at schools.

The Western Cape Minister of Social Development said, “Although there is insufficient data to directly confirm reasons for absenteeism, it is likely that female learners’ dignity and suffering are impacted by a lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources. We believe that initiatives such as the sanitary dignity project are not only crucial to restoring the dignity of many indigent female learners but also serves to address undue hardships and other educational barriers female learners face in schools.” 

This is the first time the Departments are embarking on such a project. We welcome all feedback and communications with regards to the progress; challenges being experienced or compliments you would like to bring to our attention. 

The Department of Social Development is accessible to the Districts; School Principals and Representatives through our new project team email address:

“I would like to thank the many individuals and organisations, who continue to donate essential sanitary resources to those in need, and in doing so, helping us in our fight to address the plight of female learners who are poor and cannot properly manage their menses every month whilst attending school”, concluded Minister Fernandez.

For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below:

Media Enquiries: 

Joshua Covenant Chigome

Spokesperson for the Minister of Social Development, Minister Sharna Fernandez

Tel: 021 483 9217

Cell: 083 661 4949