Friday, January 25, 2008

Mail bag!

I've started getting email/messages about my project; you cannot imagine my excitement.

Lacey writes:

Are you aware of the Always program--Protecting Futures--that provides girls in Africa with pads "so they don't have to miss school during their periods?" I'm quite ambivalent about it, and wondered if I was justified. While I understand and agree with their goal of providing a means of educational equality, I was curious about the waste management problems this might create, and how the extra trash from this program will affect the girls' home settlements. I know that many of the US's "favorite" menstruation products have dangerous chemicals in them--would these be harmful to the local soil and water, as well as possibly for the girls they're meant to help?

I thought maybe you might know some of the specifics and/or ramifications of such a program, given your research interest. It seems to me that supplying them with Luna pads, sea sponges, Keeper Cups, or other reusable protection would make more sense both practically and ecologically... even though these approaches make exactly NO money for Always.

Then I say:

Yes, I have heard of the Always program, but only though a coupon ad I found in my parents' newspaper a few weeks ago. I don't know that much about it, but my feelings seem to be similar to yours.

I do know of a similar UK-based program called Dignity! Period. that sends disposable pads to Zimbabwe. I've read that the reason why reusable pads would be unhelpful is because of the shortage of water. I guess that makes sense. I suppose that reasoning could be extended to the keeper/divacup as well.

Like I said, I don't really know that much about the program or about life in Africa or anything, but it seems to me that African women would have their own ways of coping with their cycles rather than relying on charity from the US or UK. While I appreciate the intention of help behind Protecting Futures or Dignity! Period., I can't help but think they're imperialistic/self-righteous and more focused on the money/good publicity. It seems like just another way to show how Africa needs us to help them out, that they're incapable of handling even their own bodily functions without American/British intervention. I kind of doubt that's true.

Furthermore, when American/British women see campaigns like this, it furthers the misconception that the only two options for dealing with menstrual cycles are 1)tampons or 2)pads, when of course that's simply not true.

In any case, campaigns like this do seem to be a short-term solution. Always is sending pads to the poor little African girls. Great. But what happens when Procter & Gamble no longer wishes to sustain this program? And, like you said, what will be the environmental implications? Unfortunately, I don't know how to answer these questions either, but I'm glad that at least there are others with the same things on their minds! Sorry I can't really give you any more info, but yes, I do think your concerns are justified.

P&G's press release about the program.
Comments from Red Tent Sisters


Claire said...

One could also make the argument that it might be better to provide the same products that most women in the western hemisphere use. Why make African women responsible for the ecological consequences that accompany the use of disposable pads? Wouldn't it have a much greater positive impact on the environment if all the women who have easy access to disposable pads in the west switched to menstrual cups or washable pads?


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