By Anita Shapiro
Daniella Zinanni, aged 12 years, a student at Elkanah House in Cape Town in the Western Cape, has been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.1
In 2014, Zinanni went on an outing to a few schools in the community of Blouberg, where Elkanah House is situated. The aim of this visit was to donate books, toys, tinned food and stationery to less fortunate schools.
Zinanni and a few of her friends became engaged in a conversation with a staff member at one of the schools and learned that although the donations were received with gratitude, a larger crisis loomed: a shortage of sanitary items for young girls, often preventing them from attending school. In povertystricken areas around the world, the average girl misses approximately 25–35 days per year of education because of the lack of funds to buy sanitary products.2 In South Africa alone, seven million girls miss school every month when they have their periods.3 This has a negative effect on academic progress and self-esteem.
Good questions, good answers, immediate action
Being nine years old at the time, Zinanni did not quite understand some of the discussion and returned home to ask her mother many questions. Her mother explained the effect of puberty on a girl’s body and self-esteem and the advent of menstruation, leading to the need for sanitary pads or tampons to keep clean, dry and hygienic. Her mother used the metaphor of a caterpillar changing into a butterfly to explain puberty to Daniella, and this planted the seed of the name of the foundation she then started – Bhabhathane, which means “butterfly” in Xhosa.
She sent a proposal for her Bhabhathane Butterfly Foundation (BBF) to her school principal, Arthur Preston, in October last year. As part of Elkanah House’s Senior Primary Leadership Programme, Preston encouraged her to begin her project and start collecting sanitary items for school girls in the poorer communities around the school. Zinanni does this by canvassing for donations and sponsorships, and running fundraising competitions.
Much support for a crucial cause
The first recipient of the International Children’s Peace Prize was awarded in 2005 to Nkosi Johnson.4 Chaeli Mycroft, the 2011 winner, visited the Elkanah House Senior Primary campus this year and was eager to meet with Zinanni. Soon after their meeting, she decided to nominate Zinanni for the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize. The award presentation takes place in The Hague in December this year. Although Zinanni was a few weeks short of the minimum age requirement, Mycroft wrote a letter to motivate her nomination, and she was accepted. Zinanni has also joined the Pay-It- Forward Ambassadors Programme with Mycroft.5
Zinanni has collected and packaged over 1 000 care parcels, which have been delivered to Sophakama Primary School in Dunoon, and links are being established with other schools in the area. The school and broader community are giving the BBF much support in terms of hosting fundraisers (such as a fun run) and corporate donations.
Onward and upward
Zinanni was recently invited to meet Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, at Parliament in Cape Town. She asked him whether he knew that education was the key to alleviating poverty. He answered that he did know, but asked her whether she would like to pose the question to the House of Assembly, and invited her back to do so in September this year. Zinanni’s dream is ultimately to provide care packs to all school girls who need them, and her foundation is currently being registered as a public benefit organisation to ensure longevity and sustainability. Her ambition is to become a lawyer and advocate for children’s rights one day.
A shortlist of three nominees for the International Children’s Peace Prize will be announced in September 2016.
1. See: http://childrenspeaceprize.org/Prize/About.
2. See, for example: http://www.aworldatschool.org/news/entry/menstrualhygiene-day-helping girls-go-to-school-1994.
3. See, for example: http://www.news24.com/Video/SouthAfrica/News/Millionsof-schoolgirls-in-SA-dont-have-access-to-sanitary-pads-20140908.
4. See, for example: http://nkosishaven.org/nkosi-johnsons-history/.
5. The International Children’s Peace Prize 2011 was presented to Michaela Mycroft, also called Chaeli, by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. Mycroft received the prize at the age of 17 years, for her commitment to the rights of children with disabilities in South Africa, through her project the Chaeli Campaign. (Source: http://childrenspeaceprize.org/Winners/2011.)
6. See: http://chaelicampaign.co.za/programmes/.