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Wits students to hand over sanitary towel demands

Thousands of students signed a petition and are demanding free pads for women on campus.

Sanitary pads. Picture: Winnie Theletsane/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A group of Wits University students are expected to hand over a document to vice-chancellor Adam Habib before the end of the day, demanding that the institution provide free sanitary towels to women on campus.

The petition, signed by thousands of students, forms part of two campaigns which have made headway this week.

The other is an online petition by Livity Africa, with a plea to government to make the hygiene product more accessible to girls in low-income areas.

Both documents have been addressed to Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi.

Activist and Livity Africa's Pontsho Pilane said, "Women's bodies are disregarded, particularly black women's bodies, when you look at the socio-economic status and who is poor, and who can afford what in this country. Why aren't sanitary towels free or more accessible? If it was an issue that government was taking seriously it would be something that would have already happened."

While it's estimated that around seven million girls miss school every month because they don't have access to hygiene products, Pilane says more research needs to be done and to outsource information from other countries.

The campaign started earlier this month and has garnered the support of nearly 1,500 members of staff and students under the slogan "Worth Bleeding For".

The group is also calling on government to do away with a 'tampon tax' that has made the hygiene product increasingly unaffordable for South African women.

The sales tax applied to sanitary products, which are classified as 'luxury goods', has been challenged in previous years, but to no effect.

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