By Tiyani Rikhotso
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
This year, as our media conference coincided with Mandela Day, VARSITY felt it was important to support an outreach initiative and give back. Thus, in the spirit of Mandela Day, we partnered with The Dignity Campaign (a youth month initiative). Created by Litha Phika and Itumeleng Skhosana, The Dignity Campaign works with The Period Project SA to empower young girls through the provision of menstrual products.
Itumeleng and Litha are both passionate about community development and social justice. The two met as graduate interns at Communicare in 2019 and instantly connected as friends. In working with them for Mandela Day, VARSITY reached out for an interview to gain more insight into their Youth Month Initiative, its impact and future opportunities for growth.
- What prompted the formation of The Dignity Campaign and what are the issues you try and address through your work?
It is a known issue that many young girls across the world, especially from poorer countries, lack access to sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. As a result, they are often forced to miss school when they are on their periods. The Dignity Campaign was prompted by a need to restore the dignity of young girls from two communities, Delft and Hanover Park. Menstruation is a delicate time for women and young girls and we all deserve the dignity and privacy to maintain personal hygiene during this time.
Something that defines us is the fact that we have always wanted to contribute towards addressing the inequalities that young people face every day. So, we approached The Period Project South Africa because we wanted to contribute towards the work they do. The aim was to contribute towards addressing the challenges that young girls go through from their lack of access to sanitary pads. The young girls already come from disadvantaged homes and communities. Thus, the added burden of a lack of access to sanitary pads further disadvantages them and impacts their futures.
The Period Project South Africa (PPSA) is an NPC that donates sanitary pads to young girls (mostly in grade 12) across the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Our intention is to support their work in empowering young girls, by raising sanitary pad donations on behalf of PPSA through our Youth month initiative. We hope that through The Campaign, we can assist the plight that young girls face in having to compromise their education at the expense of a natural process they have no control over.
- What has the response been in trying to encourage people to support The Dignity Campaign?
The positive response the Campaign has received was amazing. Knowing that The Dignity Campaign is still new and quite small in terms of capacity we set a target amount of R3000. To our surprise, we have managed to raise R4040 to date.
Whether people are actually making a donation or spreading the word about what we do, people have been very supportive. With men, we have observed that there is still a bit of shyness around being in a store and purchasing sanitary pads. However, this is not because they do not care but touches on a bigger conversation on the stigma around menstruation. Fundraising has allowed for this gap to be filled as people are able to make a monetary donation that goes towards purchasing the pads. We have also observed that people do have the hearts to give back, but they often do not know how to or have enough knowledge on which organisations are out there doing community work.
This is where we fit in. We aim to exist as a bridge that connects people’s kindness to the cause!
- Following on this, what are the main platforms you use to raise awareness and the tools you have found to be the most impactful in doing so?
The main platforms we used are WhatsApp, emails, Facebook and Instagram. It is difficult to say which platform is the most effective because most donations are made anonymously. However, WhatsApp has been very useful to us as we are able to connect to people directly and on a personal level. It is easier for people to trust and engage with us on WhatsApp as we can keep in regular contact and update them on progress through our WhatsApp statuses.
Emails have also been useful, in similar ways to WhatsApp, specifically for our professional connections. In addition, though it is restricted during this time, direct engagement has also been our most primary tool of communication. Through this, we are better able to connect with people and their humanity.
- What does the work that you do with The Dignity Campaign mean to you and what has been the most rewarding moment thus far?
Itumeleng: I know how it feels to not have sanitary pads and for as long as I have had my period I don’t remember another girl refusing to give me should I need it, because she knows as well. So, to be able to help other girls is an effort to make their journey of womanhood less complicated or stressful. For me it is also an opportunity to help young girls realise their potential through fulfilling their education without having to worry about not having pads. What has been most rewarding is receiving more support from our friends, family members and professional networks. It means they believe in our vision and are helping us make a change as young people.
Litha: The sanitary pads drive means that as young people in South Africa we get to exercise our rights and freedoms in a meaningful way. It is about us taking the skills, the networks and resources we have and putting together an initiative like this for the benefit of those who are in need.
The most rewarding moment is seeing the campaign being a success and knowing that the girls in Masibambisane and Crystal High will not be missing a school day.
The Dignity Campaign recently ran its Youth Month Drive which was a success yet again. Itumeleng and Litha shared that they “hope that The Dignity Campaign can spread its wings and grow into a sisterhood network”. Their aim is to one day create a space where they provide mentorship and guidance to young girls on personal growth. Supporting young women through the challenges they face within their communities and nurturing their ambitions is central to The Dignity Campaign’s work.
“We would like to be able to assist them with educational resources and connect them with our networks to guide their journey after completing their matric year” they added.
You can donate to The Dignity Campaign here.
For more information, you can contact:
Litha: 0676570997 (WhatsApp) or
Itumeleng Comfort Skhosana (Facebook) or