There is a huge problem with young women in schools, and women at work around the globe with their lack of proper menstrual gear. Without having appropriate and effective items to use, many are missing out on school or work while they menstruate, as it is too difficult to manage their periods away from home. That’s generally one week every 4 weeks! The amount of school and work missed out on adds up considerably!
Often girls will drop out of school once they start menstruating, preferring that to the embarrassment of being absent once a month – since its obvious why they are not present. Or the fear of their period starting while they are at school, when they have nothing to use.
You would think that it would be easy for them to find cloth rags to form something to use – but there is a problem with having enough “effective” protection to be able to attend work or school. There are also other factors that do contribute as well. Some of the issues are:
- Homemade solutions (newspaper, rags etc.) are often not absorbent enough to cope with the amount of flow for the entire day.
- No underpants or similar garment to be able to hold the absorbent item in place
- No water or cleaning facilities at the work/school to be able to clean themselves during the day (Particularly important if they are not using absorbent enough products)
- No toilet facilities at work/school, or the facilities are dangerous (many women/girls are raped/assaulted in toilets)
…and many more…
So why is this a problem now?
Why can’t they deal with menstruation?
On the surface it’s a reasonable question. As women we’ve been dealing with menstruation since the beginning of time…. so why are some women not able to deal with their own menstrual needs?
Disposable pads (and underpants to wear them in) are actually a fairly recent invention (around the 1930s), and are not cherished the world over as you may imagine. In some places around the world women still today take themselves away and flow onto the ground during their periods… or be in a situation where they are standing (working in the fields etc.), where it is a bit easier to deal with menstruation – like allowing the blood to flow down your legs and washing your body later.
But when you bring a change where you now have young women sitting at a school desk for hours, it creates problems that were not there previously.
Another thing to consider is that without schooling, women of menstruating age would most likely be having children and breast feeding which would delay menstruation…..also poor nutrition can lead to loss of periods…. so women in those countries would normally have less periods than western women do anyway… but with our influence that has created schooling opportunities, its brought about this problem for young women. That isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be schooling…. with more education comes more choices and improved facilities for the community… so that is a good thing! but when people ask why this is all of a sudden a problem – this is one of the reasons why. We’ve essentially created the problem, by bringing situations where menstruating women have something new to deal with.
Just give them disposables then!
Its true that in many cases disposable products are going to be better suited than cloth pads that need washing. But then there is also the problem of if disposables are given, they have to have disposal of the used items. This would most likely have to be done via incineration (burning plastic is not exactly good for the environment or people’s health, but is the better option over having landfills), and of course, providing constant supply. Aid agencies usually provide shipments of tampons and pads, but it’s not nearly enough to cover the needs of every woman. Also think of the space disposable products take up. Usually goods are sent over in shipping containers, where aid is packed in as much as is able to fit. So months and months of supplies of disposable pads and tampons are going to take up space where other supplies could be. Imagine the money that could be spent on other aid if another alternative was found.
I also imagine it’s not a good situation when you’re reliant on someone giving you packs of pads – from a self esteem and dignity point of view.
What is the Solution?
There is no complete solution, but through this site I am hoping to raise awareness of this problem, and encourage people to get donations of pads out to where they are needed – disposable and reusable – to give these women and girls the opportunity to stay in work/school.
There are some programs being set up where women sew cloth pads which are sold (or given) out to the women in the community, as a self-supporting business – this is a great idea!