South32 and Blossom Care Solutions join forces in the fight against period poverty

SOUTH32 Hillside Aluminium smelter has partnered with Blossom Care Solutions to establish a small sanitary pad factory that will assist local schoolgirls and young women in the fight against period poverty, while also setting up a business supply chain in the area that will begin growing other small commercial enterprises. Shockingly, period poverty — which refers to the financial inability to afford sanitary products – affects millions of young girls and women around found that an estimated 30% of girls do not attend school while they are menstruating because they cannot afford the necessary items.

Blossom Care Solutions exists to increase access to sanitary pads among schoolgirls and women in township and rural markets, and to simultaneously create jobs for young women between the ages of 18 and 34 via a deliberate women-centered approach.

Vice President of Operations for Hillside Aluminium
“We have a clear purpose, and that’s to make a difference and improve people’s lives now and for generations to come. We are pleased to sponsor this youth development programme as it not only empowers and equips young people, but it also alleviates the hygiene challenges at our local schools. Over the coming months, we look forward to sharing more milestones as an active partner in this collaboration.’

The initiative with South32 represents Blossom Care Solutions’ third production facility set up this year, with more to follow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is period poverty?
It is the financial inability to afford sanitary products, coupled with a lack of knowledge about menstruation. The problem affects millions of young girls and women in South Africa daily. The problem is exacerbated by the social stigma that is still associated with menstruation in township and rural areas, which causes additional social and economic disadvantages to those affected.

Why has Hillside Smelter joined forces with Blossom Care Solutions?

We care about people, the communities were a part of and the world we depend on. Whether it’s for use in infrastructure, energy generation, consumables or vehicles, South32 believes the extraction and processing of minerals and metals can be done in a responsible way. That’s why we continually challenge ourselves to be the best in what matters — the safety and well- being of our people and communities, our operational performance, and minimising our environmental impact.

Our purpose is to make a difference by developing natural resources, improving people’s lives now and for generations to come. We do this by creating local jobs, empowering and investing in communities, and contributing to governments through paying taxes and royalties.

We want to play a role, with Blossom Care Solutions, in fighting this national problem in a practical, holistic way. The overall impact of period poverty is to present even more obstacles to the learning and development of those young girls and women who are affected by it, when compared to their male counterparts.

The approach enables the empowerment of girls and women from both an individual and an economic perspective. There are real ways to combat this social issue, while assisting with sustainable job creation at the same time.

The opening of this local sanitary pad production facility, using the Blossom Care Solutions specifically-developed business model, will enable more young girls in the area to attend school throughout the year, while also addressing social stigmas through education. Additionally, our goal of creating sustainable female-led businesses in this critically important arena will ultimately benefit individuals and the community at large, including the expansion of related value chains.

Explain more about the economic advantages and job creation involved in the opening of this sanitary pad production facility.

During this first year of operations, six previously unemployed women from the area, who are aged between 18 and 34 and were previously selected, will complete Blossom’s learning and development programme. They will be educated and trained to become business owners via the Blossom Care Solutions franchise model and will ultimately own this business themselves. The aim is to train them to take over the running of the business after 12 months. Our social franchise model ensures each of our franchisees is supported and nurtured with specific support provided by Blossom, including access to markets.

The Blossom business model has a decentralised low-cost approach towards manufacturing pads so the franchises can be competitive at a local level. Each Blossom franchise needs to be serviced by local businesses in the area. We need security, cleaning, IT support and distribution partners. This in turn drives the development of local township economies and the expansion of related value chains. In deciding on who to work with, we prefer to partner with other small, local businesses as these businesses, like ours, are the engines for job growth in South Africa.

How do the sanitary pads reach the intended recipients who need them?

Blossom Care Solutions has two important channels to market: firstly, it uses commercial retail outlets like spaza shops, general dealers, pharmacies, and regional and national key accounts; secondly, there is a channel composed of corporate partners that buy pads that Blossom in tum hands out to deserving beneficiaries via the Blossom Beneficiary Programme.

There is also a partnership between Blossom and the Youth Employment Service (YES). The partnership provides for the funding of staff salaries for the first year in each Blossom location. Salaries are paid for by YES’ corporate partners who have partnered for purposes of improving their B-BBEE score.

What are the objectives of Blossom Care Solutions and its partners?

To significantly increase access to sanitary pads among schoolgirls and women in township and rural markets: Blossom has already signed on commitments with schools to distribute over 840 000 pads over the next 12 months to create jobs for young women between the ages of 18 and 34 via a deliberate women-centered approach

To establish small black-owned, women- led businesses under a social franchise model.

How are the sanitary pads produced?
Each new Blossom franchise uses a locally designed machine specifically designed for Blossom. The machines are designed to be compact enough to fit through a standard- sized doorway.

Each machine can produce up to 50 pads per minute.

The six members of each team of young women are trained in operating the machines, assembling the products, and organising the packaging and distribution on a day-to-day basis. They take ownership of the business as they are owners-in-training.

Where does the ‘People, Profit, Planet’ concept fit into the business model?

In carrying out our stated objectives, we focus on our people, our profit, and our planet. As well as making the sanitary pads locally, which reduces the company’s carbon footprint, our offering includes a fully biodegradable sanitary pad, and we have well-developed plans to make our business carbon neutral by 2026. From a business perspective, we understand organisations are connected to the societies as well as the environments in which they operate.

Source: 26 November 2021 Zulu Observer Page 17

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