It’s not often that you go to an event that truly humbles you. Spending the afternoon with Always and P&G at Itirele-Zenzele School, Diepsloot, really put some things in perspective for me.

Growing up I never once had to miss school because I was on my period. I was able to always buy pads or tampons when I needed them. I was able to get painkillers to help ease period pain. Not once did my period ever hamper me going to school and getting an education. My mom is old school so we didn’t discuss periods much, but I had access to books, magazines, friend and the Internet when I wanted to find out anything about periods. I was self conscious when I was on my period, but I never lost confidence in my abilities.

I had no idea until recently that girls missed school because they were on their period and didn’t have access to any sanitary products. I also had no idea that so many girls out there were clueless about their menstrual cycle, why it happens, what it means, how long it lasts for, how often you’ll have it etc. It broke my heart reading the stats below and seeing how this all affected so many girls’ confidence in their abilities.

When 82% of South African girls’ said the phrase “#LikeAGirl” should mean something positive, @AlwaysZa listened.

The Always Keeping Girls in School is such a crucial programme. It’s working towards helping girls in impoverished areas stay in school while on their period, is giving them puberty education which they most likely have not received, and is promoting and encouraging their self-confidence during puberty. I got to experience this all firsthand when we went to Itirele-Zenzele School in Diepsloot.

We arrived at the school and were greeted by the school choir whose songs honestly gave me goosebumps. Once they had finished their introductory songs, the head girl and head boy introduced the speakers. I was blown away by the talent in the school – the head boy and head girl were amazing MCs and one student came forward and recited a poem she had written. This pupil is going to be someone huge in the future! She walked up confidently to the front and the whole school quietened down instantly to listen to her – and boy did the learners all listen to her and cheer her on when she was finished. I see her being a well-known speaker one day, who really gets people to listen to her.

A law student who also attended the event spoke to the pupils and told them her story of how a farmer had paid for her school fees when she was growing up. She had worked really hard in school and later in university, and had travelled to a number of countries I dream of visiting. She made it very clear to the pupils that there is never a reason not to attend school – it’s vitally important for their futures, and just because they didn’t grow up in an affluent area, does not mean they can’t achieve great things when they are older. She is a confident young woman who was the perfect person, in my opinion, to address the pupils, especially the girls. I believe many of the pupils resonated with her story and she is a great representation of what they can become one day.

Following that, P&G spoke to the girls about menstruation. I loved that the boys attended the event with the girls so that they too can understand the changes we as women go through. P&G did a fantastic job of explaining step by step what happens to their bodies when they reach puberty and the changes they will go through as boys and girls. They then explained the menstrual cycle to the girls and told them how to use sanitary pads correctly, ensuring that they are changed frequently and disposed of appropriately – all while emphasizing that girls should still attend school, even when on their periods, and they should never be ashamed of going through puberty and their periods. (I also heard all the names that people call their period which was fascinating! “Aunty Flow”, “Dot”, and some other words I can’t for the life of me remember right now.) P&G then opened the floor for questions, and the girls got a chance to ask some of the questions that they didn’t have the answers to. Many of these questions may seem like common sense to you or me, but believe me, that is not the case with many young girls out there.

The speeches at the event were all positive and promoted being confident as a girl. I first saw this Always ad a year ago at a presentation at an agency, and it’s one that I remember vividly. Take a moment to watch this Always #LikeAGirl video. Funny how as a young girl we are super confident, but as we get older we lose confidence in ourselves? The message is so relevant and necessary that we as women can achieve anything that a man can do.

The young girls at the school were told that they too can do many things better than the boys can, and that they can achieve their dreams no matter how big they are. The DJ put some music on briefly and this young lady walked out into the school quad and started dancing. This is one the the best photos I captured of the afternoon. Her smile on her face says everything. She was confident, she wanted to dance, and she had fun doing it – #LikeAGirl. I hope that the next time the DJ plays music, the girls who weren’t confident enough initially will get up and dance too.

The Always Keeping Girls in School programme empowers girls through essential puberty education, motivation, access to educational resources and donations of Always sanitary pads so that they don’t have to miss school and they can be confident about themselves and their futures.

To wrap up the event, Always handed out bags with sanitary pads in them to the girls. This small gesture put smiles on many faces that afternoon. I am so grateful I got to be a part of the event, meet amazing women, and see the work that Always is doing in our communities.

If you are able to help a young girl or woman improve her confidence in her abilities, do it. If you can give someone basic information that may seem like a no-brainer to you, share that information. If you are able to mentor a young woman who has dreams she is nervous of or doubtful she can achieve, mentor her and guide her. If you are able to give someone sanitary pads when they can’t afford them, donate them. There is so much you can do for the young women out there! Help keep them in school so that they can achieve their dreams. Help empower them and show them that they can achieve anything they want – #LikeAGirl.

This is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to praise P&G and Always for this event. I really believe in their programme and the young women whose lives they are changing one day at a time.

Thank you Always for inviting me to be a part of this.

PS. This is Nombuleloh in the photo below with me. She is a young entrepreneur, who is studying HR at UJ. She is already doing amazing things for communities out there, and is going to do even more fantastic things in future. Follow her on Instagram if you need some fitness inspiration and want to follow her journey.