Counteracting period poverty and creating sustainable jobs with Blossom Care Solutions.

JOHANNESBURG – August 31, 2021 – Imagine a situation in which your teenage daughter, or another young girl in your family or circle of friends, was forced to miss school for almost one-quarter of the school year, and yet still expected to pass her exams despite the handicap of lessons not attended. Unfortunately, this is the actual stark reality for nearly one-third of girls in South Africa today, who must battle ‘period poverty’ every month, brought about by a financial inability to afford sanitary products.

This is according to Shamiela Sarlie, Managing Director at Blossom Care Solutions, a social enterprise that exists to combat the issues brought about by period poverty in South Africa, while also investing in sustainable job creation.

She explains, “According to a Stellenbosch University[1] study, around 30 percent of young girls in South Africa miss school for anywhere between three and six days every month, because they do not have access to sanitary pads when they are menstruating. In real terms, this means they are forced to stay at home for the best part of one school week every month, which, when added up, potentially represents up to one-quarter of a school month, and ultimately one-quarter of the school year – and possibly even more than this[2] [3].

Few would disagree that this presents a serious handicap to any young girl’s progression through her education path. In addition, these same young women generally don’t possess adequate knowledge of menstruation and its impact on their bodies and health, both in the present as well as into their future.

“This financial inability to afford sanitary products, coupled with a lack of knowledge about menstruation, is called period poverty. Its overall impact is to present even more obstacles to the learning and development of young girls compared to their male counterparts. This, together with the social stigma that is still associated with menstruation in township and rural markets, causes additional social and economic disadvantages to these young girls and women.”

Sarlie notes that there is an estimated 2,6 million young girls and women in South Africa who have no access to sanitary pads[4], and a further 3,4 million women who use, on average, just one pad during their cycle.  “The effect that this has on the development of young girls, at school in particular, is profound on so many levels. This is why Blossom Care Solutions was established in 2019 as a mission-centric social enterprise: for women, by women.”

The company’s objectives are three-fold, as follows:

  • To significantly increase the access to sanitary pads amongst schoolgirls and women in township and rural markets.
  • To create jobs for young women between the ages of 18-34, via a deliberate women-centred approach.
  • To establish small black-owned, women-led businesses under a social franchise model.

“In carrying out our stated objectives, we focus on our people, our profit and our planet,” says Sarlie. “When aiming to develop sustainable business practices, it is important to create strategies that preserve the long-term viability of environmental, social and governance factors. From a business perspective, we need to realise and understand that organisations are connected to the societies as well as the environments in which they operate.”

The impacts and outcomes of the Blossom programme are as follows:

Distribution of sanitary pads to girls from Grades 4 to12: 

Blossom Care Solutions is able to distribute a number of sanitary pads to girls at school, specifically in township and rural communities, at no cost to the girls themselves. As a beneficiary of the Blossom Beneficiary Programme, each girl receives 10 pads per month. Blossom has already signed on commitments with schools to distribute over 840,000 pads over the next 12 months[5].

Sarlie notes, “The impact of the programme is seen in the number of pads distributed, and the number of young girls who are positively affected. The outcome is that they are then empowered to go to school while they are having their period, instead of missing school days, which begins, over time, to have a significant positive developmental impact.

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“Another important outcome is how the Blossom Care Solutions programme is starting to change behaviour and perceptions around menstrual hygiene in township and rural markets, in this way slowly helping to erode the social stigma issues still associated with menstruation in some parts of the country.”

Sustainable job creation for young black women aged between 18 to 34:

According to a recent Statistics South Africa QLFS study, over 64 percent of young people between the ages of 15 to 34 are unemployed in South Africa[6]  and of the 7,2 million unemployed persons, more than half do not have a matric certificate[7]. Blossom Care Solutions is targeting the demographic of young unemployed people between the ages of 18 and 34, with a focus on women, in its objective of sustainable job creation.

Sarlie clarifies, “The number of immediate direct jobs created through Blossom Care Solutions currently stands at 35 as at end September 2020, which is expected to grow to over 70 by end February 2022.  This will result in over R3,4 million being paid in salaries across our location, the vast majority of which will be spent locally.

“The impact is therefore direct jobs, with the outcome being the money spent locally and the effect that this project will have in creating indirect jobs, such as cleaning, security, IT servicing and distribution. Having Blossom Care Solutions set up in a region can create a number of indirect jobs, which has significant positive outcomes within these local economies.”

Creating black-owned, female-led businesses via a social franchise model:

In each location, six young women are recruited, selected and developed, through a detailed, holistic and supportive 12-month programme, into business owners via the Blossom Care Solutions franchise model.

Explains Sarlie, “Our objective, as at the end of December 2022, is to have nine female-led, black owned businesses producing and selling sanitary pads. The impact is thus an increased number of small black-owned businesses that are sustainable. This in turn, as the outcome, drives the development of local township economies and the expansion of related value chains.

“In this particular instance, the sanitary pad value chain requires raw materials, production, distribution and support services.  The end result is the feeding into, and growth of, the local value chains that support the business. At the same time, we have a clear focus on the planet via the sustainability of our products into the future.”

Globally, approximately 200,000 metric tons of waste associated with sanitary products find their way into landfills each year[8].

“These products can take between 500 to 800 years to decompose[9] and, along with other disposable consumer products, are a major contributing factor to the global climate emergency we face,” says Sarlie. “Therefore, Blossom Care Solutions produces a fully biodegradable pad along with a standard sanitary pad. We plan to be carbon neutral as a business by the end of 2026.

“Included in our plans is transitioning our full range of sanitary pads to biodegradable pads, as well as having solar power installed in all our factories. Additionally, we have implemented a responsible sourcing and supply strategy that ensures that all of Blossom Care Solutions partners and suppliers have clear policies that address their carbon footprint.”

She notes that Blossom Care Solutions has established a solid foundation over the past three years.

“We are grateful to a number of corporate and NGO partners that have bought into our mission and supported Blossom Care Solutions.  We now look forward to the next phase of growing our enterprise into one that efficiently addresses the triple bottom line of ‘people, profit, planet’.

“We are extremely pleased that are plans will enable even more young girls to continue going to school throughout the year, while also addressing social stigmas through education. We are proud that our goal of creating sustainable female-led businesses in this critically important arena will ultimately benefit individuals, communities and the South African economy as a whole,” concludes Sarlie.

Please click here if you would like to learn more about the programme, or access Blossom Care Solutions support.

About Blossom Care Solutions

Blossom Care Solutions is a mission-centric, social enterprise that exists to combat the issues brought about by period poverty in South Africa while also investing in sustainable job creation. Our aims include increasing access to sanitary pads amongst girls and women in township and rural markets; educating communities to create positive awareness and take away the stigma around menstruation; creating jobs for young women; and establishing small black-owned, women-led businesses under a social franchise model.


Blossom Care Solutions, Shamiela Sarlie,

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