Every year, millions of girls in Africa miss a significant number of days at school because of their periods. Poor menstruation hygiene not only causes school absence but may also cause stigma and ill health.
Trying to change this dreadful situation is Ngugi Vere, an international fashion stylist and designer from Zimbabwe, who is based in South Africa. Although he is known to many as a fashion geek, others consider him a philanthropist. Vere runs a campaign called Padgirls, which provides free sanitary pads for school girls in rural South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Speaking to the Ngcobo Empire crew, Vere says it broke his heart when he realised that so many girls miss school because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. In 2016 he began using his social media influence to encourage people to support his movement by donating pads, and that is when his campaign was launched.
“It took time but people eventually started giving and supporting. The fact that I was the first man to initiate this project drew people to support and we have been working like that,” he said.
Vere’s aim is to help at least 2 to 3 schools per month, but he says it is not always easy because donations don’t always come as expected. At the moment he relies only on his friends and the public for support.
“People donate when they want to, so you can’t really put a mark to it. I just push and push until people give. I’m not afraid to persistently ask people to give because that’s the only way I can reach my target and empower our future female leaders,” he explained.
Vere’s determination and consistency in this project has led to his followers dubbing him ‘The Pads King’. “I hunt for pads like I’m the one who wants to use them,” he laughed.
“Right now I’m trying to raise 10 thousand pads. I’m not getting enough support currently. For the past two months, I have only received one box of pads but I’m that guy who doesn’t give up,” he continued.
With every donation Vere receives (be it in the form of pads or money) he vows to make a difference until the government hears and acts. This project has even opened his eyes to the needs of female prisoners in Zimbambe.
“I heard that female prisoners in Zimbabwe were lacking sanitary wear, forcing them to use blankets and tissues during their monthly cycle. Thinking about the health hazards since some of them have babies in prison, I had to make a move and help,” he said.
Vere says he believes that although the women are convicts, they still deserve to live like humans.
For donations, you may call +27 83 589 2947 or visit the PADgirls Campaign page on Facebook.
— Thabile Shange