I'm not sure if anyone here has heard about Proctor & Gamble's initiative to make feminine hygiene products available to sub-Saharan African women. The theory is, that many young women do not have adequate protection or products to use during their menstrual cycles, and to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation, they simply do not attend school during their cycles. Missing 4-5 days of schooling a month negatively impacts their education, and, according to P&G, if they had Always and Tampax available, these women would receive the education they deserve. Tampons = educated women!
I don't know what I or anyone else can do about this, but I was truly appalled when I first came accross this article. Why am I so angry?
1. Women all over the world have been dealing with their periods for thousands+ years. Menstruation is nothing new. The women of sub-Saharan Africa have dealt with their periods in their own, culturally significant way for quite some time. I find it atrocious that American consumerist greed would stomp over to another continent and attempt to change another culture by substituting the so-called "correct" Western way of doing things.
2. If these women do not have access to menstrual products, will they have access to the proper disposal of such products? Since many cultures have strict taboos around menstruation, what shall menstruating women do with the garbage? Cloth can be washed and leave very little tell-tale signs behind; cotton and natural fibers can be easily disposed of, but big plastic pads? Plastic tampon applicators? Where will these products be disposed, and wouldn't a large pile of rotting menstrual products negatively impact the local environment and potentially pollute land and water resources?
3. What will happen to all the girls once their sample packs run out? Does P&G really intend to supply millions of women each month for 20-30 years? And, if these products are made available for purchase, will these women be able to afford such products?
4. Will these women be educated in TSS and its symptoms? What will become of a woman in a remote area suffering from TSS who is either too embarrassed to see someone about her symptoms, or does not recognize the symptoms are a sign of a serious medical issue? If a woman develops TSS, will proper and immediate medical attention be readily available?
I am aware that many cultures have strict views regarding virginity, and perhaps internal menstrual products are not the answer, however, Gladrags and Lunapanties are a natural alternative to the plastic pads. I believe these products would be less culturally-intrusive, as many women all ready use cloth menstrual products. I do believe menstrual cups (and cloth pads) would be an excellent product for the women of Africa because they are small, discreet, do not create unnecessary waste, are easy to maintain and clean, and have not been associated with TSS.
This is just another example of consumerism, of the Western mindset believing that it is the only and correct way of doing anything, and yet another attempt to "help" all the less-fortunate people of the world. I believe we should help women all over the world and better educate women about their bodies, but this is not the way to go! This is a huge step backwards...what can be done to solve this?
I'm sorry for the length of this, but I just saw a commercial on TV about this very program. It just angers me...and I want to do something, but I just don't know what to do. Suggestions?