HLOKOMELA Banana, a local non-profit organisation, is working to restore the dignity of Basotho girls, some of who miss school for over 50 days annually when they are on their monthly periods.
The organisation heeded the call by Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso to provide sanitary wear to all school going girls to ensure that they do not miss school “due to their womanhood”.
The Volunteer Coordinator of Hlokomela Banana, Motselisi Ramakoae said after the Queen’s appeal in 2015 at a gala dinner, several people were touched by the revelation that some disadvantaged girls missed up to 50 days of school annually due to lack of sanitary wear.
“Her Majesty’s impassioned plea came at a time when one of the biggest sanitary wear companies, Lil-Lets had just been bought by Premier Foods,” Ms Ramakoae said.
“Pioneer Auto Managing Director Sesinyane Ledimo who attended the gala dinner then approached the Premier Lesotho Managing Director, Mpeake Sekhibane, to consider assisting in the cause.
“Premier Foods Lesotho then approached their headquarters in South Africa to request for a donation of a few boxes of sanitary wear on behalf of the Queen’s Trust for needy girls. This is when they were then made aware of a similar programme the company supports in South Africa called Care for Girls in South Africa, whose concept is exactly what Premier Foods Lesotho was looking for and the direct translation of the concept is Hlokomela Banana in Sesotho.”
She said her organisation then held a pilot of the project with St James High School in Mokhotlong the following year.
“St James High School had 800 girls and they were all provided with sanitary wear in October, supported by Blue Ribbon.
“In order to ensure that the programme was self-sustainable, the Hlokomela Banana team approached several private companies to choose schools and provide funds for the supply of the sanitary wear for the girls for a year.”
She said the direct partnership of the Queen’s Trust with LiLLets, has helped to significantly reduce the cost price for the sanitary wear for Hlokomela Banana’s initiative.
“Since Hlokomela Banana was dealing directly with the company producing the sanitary wear brand, Lil-Lets, this meant that the cost of buying these was reduced significantly to M66.60 for 12 packs of 10, which means each girl gets a pack monthly. This amount is what most women spend in one or two months.
“The response from private companies and individual Basotho was laudable and several schools with a total number 12 500 girls were provided with sanitary wear for the year 2017.
“With the total number of school-going girls in Lesotho at 78 000, we also realised that other means of fund raising were required and approached telecommunication companies for support. Both Econet and Vodacom came up with the concept of the short message service (sms) to donate and the ‘Adopt-A-Girls for M66, 60’ was born.
“This allows for individuals to be part of the initiative conveniently by sending the message ‘Hlokomela Banana’ to either 65240 or 52240 and M66, 60 is deducted from their cellular accounts to take care of one girl’s sanitary needs for a whole year.
“These individual contributions add up to take care of several schools which are chosen by Her Majesty by prioritising the most remote areas where poverty levels are high,” Ms Ramakoae said.
She said through the Vodacom and Econet’s ‘Adopt-A-Girl’ initiative, and the continued support from several corporates, the number of girls supported in 2018 and 2019 increased to 17 000, which translates to a 20 percent of school-going girls.
Ms Ramakoae expressed gratitude to corporates, families and individuals who have supported the initiative. She said she was especially moved by individuals like Likentso Jankie and Nts’iuoa Sekete, who each picked a school when the initiative started in 2017 and have continued to support the same schools to date.
“Several individual Basotho also adopted schools in 2018 and we hope they will continue to support the selected schools in future. We also have families that have sponsored schools. In most of these cases, the families have picked schools that one or several of their family members attended or are in their family homes.
“Among them are the Mokete’s (Linareng Sec School), Ramoeli’s (Linotsing Sec School) and the Mokitimi Family (Mathula High School)
“In order for the initiative to reach all school going girls in the country, we request support from all Basotho, individually, in groups and as corporates. Inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org,” Ms Ramakoae said.