There’s been an Always ad on television lately regarding how “girls living in sub-Saharan Africa can miss up to four days of school each month because they lack the basic necessity of sanitary protection and other resources to manage their periods.” Apparently, Always maxi pads aims to do something about this. This struck me as an odd initiative, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and went online to hunt down the P&G (Always’ parent company) news release on the subject:
According to research, 1 in 10 school-age African girls do not attend school during menstruation or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools. And, if a girl has no access to protective materials or if the materials she has are unreliable and cause embarrassment, she may be forced to stay at home while menstruating. This absence of approximately 4 days every 4 weeks may result in the girl missing 10 to 20 percent of her school days. The Protecting Futures program will provide products and services to help keep girls in school as well as help foster the overall health and well-being of every child in the targeted school communities.
The bloggers at Red Tent Sisters (a fantastic Toronto-based business dedicated to serving the reproductive and sexual health needs of women) weigh in on the Always campaign, its pros and cons:
1) I think it’s great that they’re going to be improving the sanitation facilities, providing nutritious feeding programs [using local, sustainable food sources?], and providing health support.
2) I don’t have a problem with education and hopefully increasing openness about women’s reproductive and sexual health but I do have concerns about mainstream menstrual product companies doing it!
Ellen Macro, the resident blogger at Red Tent Sisters, continues on to share the following concerns:
3) If only 1/10 girls miss school, what are the other 9/10 doing already?
4) Not only is P&G going to “help” the 1/10 girls but they are probably going to influence the other girls who already have sustainable methods of “managing” their menses.
5) P&G is going to make all/most girls reliant on imported products which cost money, drain resources, pollute the environment when produced and create a nightmare for disposal.
The blog entry is certainly worth a read because it explores “the whole question of it being a BAD thing that young women are missing some time from school during their menstruation” and suggests “a world in which women’s cycles are honoured and respected.” Thoughts?