Econet answers call to empower girls  

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Bereng Mpaki

IT is around 4pm on a rainy and cold day in the heartland of Berea district, and a group of school girls sit huddled in their classrooms.

Ordinarily, pupils at ‘Mantsoetsi Secondary School would have gone home by now, but today the girls were told to wait a while longer for a consignment of their “special presents” that, due to unforeseen circumstances, could not be handed over to them at the scheduled time of 12pm.

The “special presents” were menstrual hygiene kits donated by HigherLife Foundation — a corporate social investment division of Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL). The foundation’s representatives braved the bad weather and unforgiving terrain on Monday to deliver the consignment to the school which is in Sebetia’s Ha ‘Makhoroana village.

Looking rather sheepish and almost embarrassed, each of the girls came forward to receive their packages during the handover ceremony.

However, the discomfiture turned to beaming smiles once they held the life-changing kits in their hands.

Thirty-five menstrual hygiene kits were handed over during the ceremony which are expected to last for three months.

A teacher at the school, Lineo Motsopa, commended HigherLife Foundation for the gesture, saying it would reduce menstruation-induced absenteeism among female learners.

“We are really grateful to the HigherLife Foundation for this noble gesture which is going to greatly impact on the female learners’ education,” she said.

The foundation also visited Hanger’s Hope Secondary School in Berea plateau, handing over 31 menstrual hygiene kits.

“We appreciate what you have done for us so much,” said one of the female learners, Lerato Matsau, upon receiving her package.

Echoing the sentiment, Hanger’s Hope Secondary School Principal, Lehlohonolo Morabe, said their gratitude could not be expressed in words.

“This is a good starting point towards building the confidence of our female learners. This initiative will give the girls freedom to embrace their femininity and also focus on their studies,” he said.

Mr Morabe said oftentimes they had to release female students to go home during their menstrual cycles and thereby missing lessons.

“So, this is a really good initiative which is going to mitigate that particular challenge,” he said.

School girls in Lesotho’s remote areas are the most affected by lack of access to sanitary pads. This challenge often forces the female learners to miss lessons during their menstrual cycles and short-circuiting their education.

It prompted Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso to spearhead a campaign to provide school girls with sanitary pads through partnerships with corporate and individual donors.

Under the campaign, dubbed Hlokomela Banana, which means “Care for Girls” in Sesotho, donors adopt schools of their choice to supply sanitary wear for a year.

The project — which was launched last August in Mokhotlong district — also seeks to educate girls on personal hygiene. It is supported by sanitary towel manufacturer Lil-llets.

ETL Public Relations Manager Puleng Masoabi said their aim was to provide sanitary ware to 866 students from eight schools in remote areas.

“We made this initiative after realizing that there are school girls who fail to attend lessons regularly because, when that time of the month comes, they struggle to access sanitary towels and forced to stay at home,” she said, adding the kits were meant to last for three months, with more set to be delivered on a quarterly basis.

A lot of girls, Ms Masoabi said, had to use rags or sheep skins as makeshift sanitary towels, which adversely affected their confidence and concentration in class.

“We want you to have self-confidence while you are learning,” she said, referring to the learners.

For her part, Hlokomela Banana campaign ambassador Nthakoana Ngatane said the corporate sector was responding well to Her Majesty’s call with many companies and individuals adopting schools as requested.

She said the campaign had set for itself the target of providing sanitary ware to 73 000 girls in 343 schools around the country. So far, 9 381 girls from 44 schools have been adopted by 17 donors.

Apart from ETL’s Higherlife Foundation, the other benefactors include Matekane Group of Companies, Aids Healthcare Foundation, Alliance Insurance, Executive Transport, FNB Lesotho, LSP Construction, Pick N Pay, Engen Pioneer Auto Services, Roof of Africa, Thaba-Bosiu Risk Solutions and Exquisite Fabrics. Among the individual donors are Ntsiuoa Sekete, Likentso Jankie and Ms Anne.

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