Womens’ bodies are a wonder. They can create, grow, and nurture life. They can also bleed for days on end and carry on like nothing happened. Doctors from Mediline Plus explain one of the features of womens’ bodies which is menstruation. Monthly, the average woman’s body will prepare for pregnancy. An egg cell will travel through the fallopian tube to the uterus. When this happens specific hormone levels will rise, and the uterus lining will thicken with blood and tissue and wait for the egg to be fertilized. If the egg is not fertilized, the lining breaks down and is excreted from the body. This process of excreting the lining from the uterus is better known as menstruation or a period. Women between the ages of 11 to 51 can experience periods that last anywhere from 2 – 7 days. It can also range from a light flow to a heavy flow depending on a variety of things. Periods/menstruation usually come with symptoms that range from bearable to extremely inconvenient and painful – where women must seek medical attention. These symptoms include mood swings, abdominal and lower back pain/cramps, as well as diarrhoea.
Periods/menstruation is normal and natural. It is so unfortunate that it is a source of misery for many women and young girls. Besides it being physically and emotionally taxing, menstruation can also be financially and academically taxing, especially for young underprivileged girls in high school. For the longest time women in South Africa have been subject to Pink Tax. Pink tax in South Africa involved women paying 15% tax for feminine products such as tampons and pads. This made pads and tampons cost an arm and a leg, which made periods more stressful and uncomfortable. Quality pads and tampons that offer more comfort and security became inaccessible and most had to try and get through their bloody and hormonal week with fewer pads and tampons than they were comfortable with, and with ones that leaked often and caused infections.
Luckily this is no longer the case as of April 2019. But even with this 15% tax dropped, menstruation is a commodity that many cannot afford. It is reported that roughly 7 million South African girls cannot afford their period. Monthly, roughly 7 million South African girls cannot go to school because they are on their period and cannot afford to buy sanitary products to help with their period. They are stuck at home, and forced to use paper, old rags, and other unsanitary items as pads. This makes them vulnerable to infections which makes everything worse. There have been several attempts to remedy this issue, unfortunately it remains.