Epiroc South Africa – driving the youth empowerment and gender equality narratives

GGlobal mining equipment and services specialist, Epiroc South Africa, once again walked their talk of steadfast commitment to promoting gender equality and empowering South Africa’s youth with a recent donation of toiletries and sanitary towels to young ladies at Girls and Boys Town South Africa’s Kagiso-Randfontein Center on Johannesburg’s West Rand.

Established in 1958, the name, Boys Town, changed to Girls and Boys Town South Africa (GBTSA) in 2004 to align with the admission of girls for the first time in 2005 to Family Homes in the Western Cape and later in Kwa-Zulu- Natal. The demand for a home for girls in Gauteng gave rise in 2014 to the first Youth Development Center for Girls at the Kagiso-Randfontein campus where two-Family Homes for younger girls and younger boys respectively, are also hosted. Through their Residential Services, Family Services and Training and Education Services, GBTSA offers a holistic approach in caring for vulnerable young people from all walks of life who have been traumatized by emotional and/or physical abuse.

Youth, aged between six and eighteen years, are assisted at GBTSA Therapeutic Care Centers located in Gauteng (Kagiso-Randfontein and Magaliesburg), KwaZulu-Natal (Tongaat and Verulam) and in the Western Cape (Kenilworth and Macassar). “We see severe neglect, abandonment, abuse and developed behavioral challenges and offer assistance through trauma counseling, behavioral modification programs, leadership and social skills programs, education as well as medical and dental care,” says Corporate Services Consultant at GBTSA, Gertrude Wilson. She points out that GBTSA is the only place for youngsters to be placed by the Children’s Courts (non-criminal) countrywide with anonymity under the Children’s Act.

When GBTSA reached out to Epiroc for assistance, Regional CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Manager for Epiroc South Africa, Judy Vilakazi, decided to conduct due diligence which included a visit to GBTSA’s Kagiso facility. Impressed with the work being done there under limited resources, Judy and her team put together pamper packs for girls containing a face cloth, a tooth brush, toothpaste, deodorant, shower gel, a soap bar, shampoo, and body lotion. Epiroc also donated 50 Palesa Pad packs containing six different sized sanitary towels to accommodate different menstrual flows. Judy reached out to a mining customer who is located in very close proximity to GBTSA’s West Rand facility to partner with Epiroc in donating school uniforms to some of the learners.

Epiroc has partnered with Palesa Pads on numerous occasions and did so once again for this initiative. Judy explains that Palesa Pads manufactures re-usable and safe sanitary towels that can last for five years if washing instructions are followed. “Moreover, during each hand-out, Palesa Pads conducts an educational activation or presentation that covers hygiene, reproductive health and how to look after these towels. This activation leaves the girls feeling so motivated and helps them to embrace their femininity.”

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This initiative is very close to Judy’s heart considering the sad reality that in most African countries many young women miss up to one week of class every month during their menstrual cycle because they simply cannot afford sanitary pads which are basic necessities. Epiroc is committed to promoting gender equality aligned to the UN Sustainable Development goal no. 5 and also to promoting quality education which is goal no.4. “Enabling female learners to attend school during their menstrual cycle is our small contribution to empowering young ladies by helping them to obtain an education and subsequently earn an income and contribute to the country’s mainstream economy,” states Judy.

The hand-over, which took place on October 14th, 2022, was attended by the Executive Mayor for West Rand City, Cllr. Gladys Khoza. Team Epiroc, which included Judy together with Thomas Mthimunye (Business Development Manager) and three interns, Lulama Khuzwayo (SHEQ), Lutendo Liphosa (SHEQ) and Christinah Mphahlele (Surface Drilling), handed the donations to the girls at GBTSA. “Seeing the excitement amongst the girls upon receiving their parcels was so heart-warming for the team,” comments Judy. “We were extremely impressed by the friendliness of the staff, their good relationships with the children and the well-maintained facility. What stood out for us in particular were the well-mannered children who came to greet the guests and introduce themselves.”

Wrapping up, Judy stresses her strong belief in initiatives such as these that truly make a difference. “GBTSA helps to place children who come from difficult backgrounds on a path towards a great future that before looked bleak, by giving them an opportunity to heal and to receive an education. It’s our hope that an event such as this and our humble donation will help to remind these children, who have to deal with so much, that they do matter in life and that they must look after themselves. We also hope to encourage them not to give up on their hopes and dreams, to stay in school and learn and earn, so that they can become active members of society.”

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