In 2010, KwaZulu-Natal resident, Sue Barnes, established the country’s first reusable sanitary pad and panty (Subz Pants and Pads) as a way to address the national crisis – girls missing school because of the cost of sanitary wear. Nine years later, studies show that Project Dignity – the non-profit extension disseminating sponsored Subz packs to disadvantaged schoolgirls – is having a positive impact on school attendance.
In the first two terms of 2019, three schools in KwaZulu-Natal – which had previously received Subz packs – were visited and questionnaires handed out to young women. The schools visited included Sidelile High School in South Coast, Ubuhle Bemfundo High School in KwaDabeka Pinetown and Woodlands Primary School in Pietermaritzburg.
Ipsos data results on Subz use
The data from the surveys included responses from 89 schoolgirls who received Subz Pants and Pads packs and were using them for their menstrual management. The schools targeted were both in semi-urban and rural areas.
Some of the most notable results from the questionnaires were:
– 57% said they are using Subz exclusively to manage menstruation.
– 68% said the Subz packs made it easier to attend school during menstruation.
– 75% said the Subz packs made them feel more confident about managing menstruation.
– 74% said the Subz packs were easy to clean and dried easily
– 75% said the Subz packs were comfortable to wear.
– 76% said the Subz pad attaches easily to the panty.
Through individual and corporate sponsorship, Project Dignity has distributed thousands of packs of Subz Pants and Pads to schoolgirls, aged 10 to 19 years, across South Africa and beyond the border. Alongside the distribution, school activations educate these young women about sexual and reproductive health, personal hygiene and caring for the product.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of all the sponsors that have enabled us to disseminate the product which aims to address high dropout rates at schools,” said Subz and Project Dignity founder, Sue Barnes. “This year alone we are proud to have reached 7 939 girls in the KwaZulu–Natal, Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape Provinces in 60 schools. We are now excited to undertake research into the impact these donations are actually having on the recipients. The data gathered from the schools will help us navigate the project going forwards.”
The Ipsos Foundation is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of global market research and consulting giant Ipsos Global S.A. Employees have the opportunity to apply for funding towards organisations that they feel support the aims of the Foundation. Project Dignity was selected in this way in 2018, based on its approach of education and female empowerment. The Project Dignity research on school-goer performance was conducted at schools that received the sponsorship from The Ipsos Foundation.
Commenting on its support for Project Dignity and the importance of such research, Tessa Schoeman of Ipsos Global said: “We were very pleased to be able to support Project Dignity through The Ipsos Foundation and assist a number of communities this way. Being researchers, we are passionate about data and understanding results and we were clear about the need to monitor and evaluate the project from the beginning.
“The results highlight the importance of personal information and instruction, not only in the practical use of the pads, but also about menstrual health in general. While it is reassuring to see that communities are starting to embrace eco-friendly (and cost-effective) products, it is also clear that this will only happen through continued education to address the stigma still surrounding menstruation. The role of community health workers and educators are invaluable to achieve this.”
Barnes said they would continue to monitor the progress of the Subz distributions and decipher which areas can be improved upon: “We are delighted with the overall positive results so far and will not stop until all South African schoolgirls are able to attend school with pride and dignity.”
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