Schoolgirls in Seychelles will no longer have to miss classes for lack of access to menstrual hygiene products after the Ministry of Education received the first donation of supplies from Vijay Patel Seychelles, a company owned by a prominent Seychellois businessman and philanthropist, on Thursday.
Patel agreed to finance the project through a partnership with the Ministry of Education as the country starts its first month of free sanitary products for all schoolgirls, as announced by the government last month.
"This business of sanitary pads is an essential thing which I know about and I have been participating in it in other places. It didn't occur to me that there is a need here and so it is a pleasure to be given the opportunity to participate in something that is necessary and good for people," said Patel.
Patel will be supplying the schools with the products for the first six months, and, according to the Ministry of Education, talks are underway for the businessmen to continue with the initiative thereafter.
Aisha Marie, a 13-year-old from Perseverance Secondary school told SNA that "I think it is a very good thing because it will help girls that their parents cannot afford to buy them. For many girls when they have their periods in school they don't have sanitary pads with them and have to borrow from others. Now the school will have it readily available."
In December 2021, President Wavel Ramkalawan announced that sanitary products would be made available free of charge to all girls in both state and private secondary schools as of January 2022.
Ramkalawan, who also attended the handover ceremony, said that this initiative gives girls their dignity.
"It has nothing to do with whether the girl can afford to buy the products. It shows that we recognise that women and girls have other needs and that we are granting them the respect they deserve," he added.
Education minister Justin Valentin said that with free sanitary products, no girl will be denied access to education because of the inability to access sanitary products.
"The likelihood of a girl being absent from school due to no access to sanitary pads in a month is around four days. In a term, there are 3.4 months, so that equals 40 days and that out of the 63 in a term. We are talking about almost one quarter, so a girl who cannot afford sanitary pads is likely to be absent for one quarter of a term and we don't want this to happen," he added.
In September 2021, Ladies Circle Seychelles - a non-profit organisation - started a petition requesting that Seychelles changes the law to allow for hygiene sanitary pads to be accessible and free to all women in the island nation.
The petition prompted parliamentarian Regina Esparon to bring a motion in the National Assembly, urging the government, in partnership with the private sector, to look at how the price of these commodities can be reduced. She also asked the government to look at the possibility of making menstrual hygiene products freely accessible in schools and at the Seychelles Hospital maternity ward.