Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities welcomes SABS announcement of sanitary towel standard

Government welcomes announcement of washable reusable sanitary towel standard by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)

Periods don’t stop for pandemics and neither does the South African government nor the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). On May 6, 2020 the SABS passed the first reusable sanitary standard: The manufacturer of Washable, Reusable Sanitary Towels” (SANS 1812). The publication of this standard is one of the first standards for washable sanitary pads in Southern Africa and is leading the way for other African countries to follow. The momentous act allows women and girls another safe option to manage their menstruation. The department is particularly pleased to share this exciting development with the country on International Menstrual Hygiene Day (28 May 2020).

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) offered support and guidance through the standards process because our position has always been one of pro-choice.  Women and girls need safe choices for ways to manage their menstruation. Support offered by the department demonstrates the commitment the South African government has in meeting the diverse menstrual health needs of women and girls in South Africa through the department’s Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework.

Many women and girls in South Africa face significant challenges when it comes to managing their menstrual cycle and often struggle, due to lack of access to affordable sanitary products. This hurdle, along with the stigma that surrounds menstruation can cause both emotional and physical harm.  

With this new SABS standard, consumers can be confident that a washable reusable menstrual pad offers women and girls an option that is affordable and longer lasting than a single use pad. Due to restrictions in supply from regulations to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, there is general increase in the need for sanitary products for destitute families. The lockdown period also disrupted the normal sanitary dignity programme delivery channels such as schools. Displacement or relocation to places of safety and shelters has also left women and girls without access to sanitary products.

Recognising that the Corona Virus has brought about a disruption in sanitary dignity programmes delivered by most departments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) the need to address menstrual health in society has become more important than ever. So this news is even more welcome under our current State of Disaster.

The South African Coalition for Menstrual Health and Management (SACMHM) Products, Standards and Supply Chain Task Committee member Ms Diana T Nelson, with Days for Girls International, was also on the Washable Task Committee working on the development of this standard for the past two years. She said, “The support of the South African government and SABS has made this possible, even during a pandemic. They worked to advance this important standard to help meet the diverse needs of women and girls in South Africa. The health and safety of women and girls menstruating is of utmost importance to our organisation, and that is why we are encouraged by the outstanding dedication of the SA government to ensure this standard was published.”

This new standard puts South Africa on the map as a leader in the menstrual health and hygiene sector. Mr Sipiwo Matshoba, Director of Social Empowerment and Participation (DWYPD), said, “This is an important and exciting milestone that we have reached in order to broaden product choice in line with the sanitary dignity implementation framework.”

For interviews contact Ms Mmabatho Ramompi on 076 480 3513 / mmabatho.ramompi@women.gov.za or Mr Pelane Mabula-Phakgadi on 072 169 2507 or Pelane.Mabula@women.gov.za

Mr Shalen Gajadhar
Cell: 060 979 4235
E-mail: shalen.gajadhar@women.gov.za

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