It’s a worthy cause. I think all people should have access to education. And it should to equal access. None of this “boys are more important to girls” crap and nothing should keep girls out of the classroom, not even when Aunt Flo comes for her monthly visit.
But it makes me wonder if sending African girls reusable menstrual pads are just another form of cultural imperialism.
There was an article I read a few months back about one tampon company, I think Tampax but don’t quote me on that, and how they’ve been donating their tampons to South African schools to keep girls in educational institutions as a way of showing corporate goodwill. While this may seem like a fab idea, the point of the article was to show corporate imperialism and how said tampon company is actually creating a market while simultaneously creating a disconnect between traditional ways menstruation has been handled and American ways of coping with the monthly bloody. That is, we catch our blood with bleached white cotton and throw it away and, of course, how menstrual blood is “dirty” and must be hidden away and something to be ashamed of. Case in point: Wolf grew up with a mother and three sisters. He not once saw a pad or tampon in the trash, in the cabinet, nor any blood in the toilet. As far as he knew, none of the women in his house bled.
Women have been menstruating since the dawn of time so I’m sure African women have a pretty good idea on how to handle their moon times. I just can’t imagine African women have been walking around for a centuries without having a clue how to catch their blood, leaving a trail behind them every month. That just doesn’t seem feasible to me. Admittedly I have no idea how they cope with menstruation but I’m sure they do.
So here we are, well intentioned Statians and Americans, sending our products to African nations, specifically Kenya, to “help” girls manage their periods and keep them in school. But isn’t that part of the problem and not the solution? Aren’t we doing the same thing the tampon company is doing, just with earth friendly products? Here we are saying “We know how to deal with our periods, you don’t, so follow in our footsteps. We’ll give you free pads because we’re a rich nation and we want to help you, you poor little African nation.”
Wouldn’t it be better for us to find out what traditional menstrual management African women have used and open up supply lines so they can be independent and self-sustaining instead of sending our product for them to become dependent on?
It just seems to me our intentions are good but it’s really about making ourselves feel better and not actually overcoming the problem: girls are undereducated. They don’t have equal access to the institutions which create self-empowerment. I don’t mean to criticize the good work Crunchy is doing, nor those who have assisted her, I just think there’s better ways for us to “help” than to create dependency on a foreign product.