Guest post by Diana Nelson, Global Advocacy Director, Days for Girls International
The South African Coalition for Menstrual Health & Hygiene (SACMHM) is an alliance for collective action to strengthen coordination amongst Menstrual Health (MH) stakeholders working to develop responsive MH solutions in South Africa. South Africa’s Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) launched their national coalition for Menstrual Health & Hygiene on March 9-10, 2020. This brought together 100 key stakeholders across the MHM continuum in South Africa including government, UN Agencies, NGOs, private sector and academic institutions.
Menstrual Health in South Africa has gained great momentum since their cabinets announcement of zero VAT on sanitary pads and the development of the Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework that launched in February 2019. The National Treasury allocated 157million rand aimed to increase access to sanitary supplies to indigent women and girls, specifically focusing on girls in low-income schools (Quintiles 1-3).
The Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities (WYPD) recognized a more coordinated response amongst multiple stakeholders in the Menstrual Health (MH) spectrum was needed and it was against this backdrop they hosted a two-day launch meeting for the South African Coalition for Menstrual Health & Hygiene Management (SACMHM).
Virginia Kamowa, the Technical Expert for MHM, for Water Supply & Sanitation Collaboration (WSSCC), and Puleng Letsie, the Secretariat for the African Coalition for Menstrual Health Management (ACMHM) reported on the structure of their coalitions and best practices. In addition, members from the Kenyan MH Coalition as well as Tanzania’s MH Coalition emphasized the need for the coalition to be led by government.
The meeting engaged in robust discussions and development of the five working task committees for the coalition. They are: Policy, Governance and Research, WASH (to cover the environment & infrastructure), Education & Health, Resource Mobilization, and Products, Standards & Value Chain. Cross cutting issues that each committee will also focus on are innovation, monitoring & evaluation, advocacy, and governance.
It was also encouraging to see inclusive language being used in the discussions to ensure no one is left behind. The Deputy Minister Professor, Hlengiwe Mkhize, in the Presidency of the DWYPD spoke and committed support from the Departments and her personal support towards prioritizing menstrual health.
The Coalitions immediate tasks are to write clear Terms of Reference to guide the Task Committees. It is also expected to advocate to expedite the review of the washable and menstrual cup products guidelines with SABS so as to widen the choice of safe menstrual products. The coalition will also intensify advocacy efforts for the roll out of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
About the author: Diana Thompson Nelson
An advocate for political, economic, and social institutions to make washable menstrual pads and cups a viable option for the millions menstruating women and girls worldwide, Diana leads Days for Girls International‘s global efforts to both to provide menstrual materials and menstrual health education to girls in schools.