University of the Western Cape takes action against period poverty on International Women’s Day

The University of the Western Cape launched a new initiative in a bid to tackle period poverty. Picture: Supplied / UWC

The University of the Western Cape launched a new initiative in a bid to tackle period poverty. Picture: Supplied / UWC

Published Mar 8, 2024


As the global community observes International Women’s Day on Friday, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) launched a new initiative in a bid to tackle period poverty.

Period poverty is common around the world and exists at UWC, where desperate students resort to using socks when menstruating because they cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons.

The new initiative aims to improve student wellness, with the university’s first move being the provision of sanitary pads to students.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Student Representative Council (SRC) and UWC’s Department of Institutional Advancement (IA).

The sanitary pad project is part of a broader campaign under the umbrella of the #UdubsCares wellness initiative for students. #UdubsCares aims to alleviate some of this burden for students, particularly in the areas of hygiene and wellness products.

In addition to the sanitary pads, more than 200 units of toothpaste will also be donated on the day.

Why the sanitary pad initiative?

Members of the SRC approached IA to assist with relief for female students, as many would approach its office on the main campus requesting sanitary pads. Inathi Gogela, the Gender and Security Officer for the SRC, is very passionate about the initiative.

“Many students don't have access to sanitary pads and often they also don’t have money to purchase them. I feel as a SRC member I have a duty to increase the accessibility to sanitary pads around campus, because some students travel from far to the university and will have to wait until they are on campus before they can request help,” said Gogela.

She explained that many students are so desperate that they will use cloth or socks as an alternative.

Her sentiments are shared by SRC deputy secretary-general Marcfalda Nani Mogola: “As a female SRC member, I have my own sanitary pad bag and often I take my own sanitary pads if a student is in need. Some students can't go to class because they menstruate and they don't have the necessary hygiene and health products.”

Food security programme

According to research from the Household Affordability Index, a platform tracking food price data, there was a steep year-on-year increase in the cost of a household food basket.

It’s for the this reason that UWC has in place a food security programme. It also assists academically deserving students through its Access to Success campaign for student tuition, its Wysa app for student wellness, and its Centre for Student Support Services.

The data reveals that year-on-year, the cost of a household food basket in Cape Town increased by almost R170. The items listed exclude hygiene or cleaning products.

Donations and responses

A vendor and alumnus of the university, Nigel Ogle of The Barn, donated 2,000 pads, as he felt it was important to get involved as a former student and father of two daughters.

“I truly felt the need to help female students who don't have the same option due to accessibility and financial constraints,” said Ogle.

The deputy vice-chancellor: Student Development and Support, Professor Matete Madiba, has welcomed the initiative.

“We cannot ignore the fact that some of our students struggle to acquire menstrual hygiene products, which can have an adverse effect on their health, academic success and overall wellbeing, and undermine their dignity,” she said.