Monday, August 27, 2012

Many Hands Make Light Work

Ed. Note: This might fall into the category of "too much information." If so, just scroll down to the middle.

My "friend" stopped visiting me rather abruptly back in 2003. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised because I'd been peri-menopausal for years. Now it seems like forever since I've had a period. But I can still remember some of those times as being a big fat, icky mess. In the big scheme of being a woman, I miss my memory more than I miss my menses.

That said, there's something so awesome about being a woman - cramps, bloating, whacked out emotions and all - it's hard not to stand in awe of the process. Certainly menstruating is not something that should hold a girl back. I think I read once that Billy Jean King won Wimbledon while she was on her period. Good golly, that was back in the day when you still had to wear those little white skirts, wasn't it?  The thing is there are countries all over the world where for reasons of hygiene, social custom, and/or religion menstruating girls are prisoners of their own bodies.

Living in my own little, no-longer-menstruating world with closets devoid of feminine hygiene products I don't think much about what happens to girls/women around the world. I was stunned into action after reading this on Facebook:
Globally, 150 million children currently enrolled in school may drop out before completing primary school – at least 100 million of these are girls.
The natural process of menstruation comes as a big problem to women and girls in many parts of the world. In order to stem the flow of monthly periods, the women and girls use anything from rags, tree leaves, old clothes, toilet paper, newspapers, cotton wool, cloths or literally anything that can do the job. Most girls from poor, rural communities do not use anything at all.
Girls who lack sanitary pads often use crude and unhygienic methods, such as inserting cotton wool to block the flow, which can migrate to their uterus. In urban slums, girls are known to collect used pads from garbage dumps, and wash them for their own use. These measures often result in serious health complications. It is common to tear blue jeans and use that fabric as a sanitary pad, but the resulting chaffing often causes extremely painful and embarrassing boils to develop.
To combat these problems, they resort to another “solution” that bears serious consequences: prostitution. Yes. You need to read that again. Some of the girls engage in prostitution/paid sex, so that they can raise the money required to buy sanitary pads, putting themselves at the risk of HIV and infection.
To state it bluntly, menstruation has become like a curse not only to the women and girls but also to society in general. Because menstruation is largely a private act, the social damage is hidden and never makes the news headlines. Also, there are cultural and social attitudes that render discussion of menstruation almost impossible.
Hygiene products are either unavailable or unaffordable to most marginalized females. Young girls are forced to skip school during the time they experience monthly periods to avoid both the cost of pads or use of cloths. UNICEF estimates that one in 10 school-age African girls either skips school during menstruation or drops out entirely because of lack of sanitation.
A girl absent from school due to menstruation for 4 days in 28 days (a month) loses 13 learning days, equivalent to 2 weeks of learning in every school term. It is estimated that within the 4 years of high school the same girl loses 156 learning days, equivalent to almost 24 weeks out of 144 weeks of learning in high school.
No woman should be cursed to disempowerment by the natural act of monthly periods. The bottom line is that the natural process of menstruation should disadvantage no girl.

Overwhelmed by the size of the seemingly insurmountable problem, I had to wonder how little old ME could make a difference in the staggering number of girls going without and dropping out. Then I remembered the words of one tiny lady who made a world of difference(s), Mother Theresa, "if you can't feed a hundred, feed just one." I contacted Donna Terpstra of growth headquartered in Coopersville, MI and signed on.  As part of her "It's Our Mission. Period." ministry, Donna and her sewing partners produce and send washable, reuseable cloth pads and basic instruction to the Girls School in Kenya.  For the price of a few yards of flannel, and a few hours work,   I can do my small part in changing the life of one girl. How cool is that?

I encourage you to check out the website, and click on the "how you can help" tab at the top.  A small  donation of your time, your treasure, your talent or all three will make a big difference.  

I was bemoaning recently about my need for something to do with excess time besides sleep. I have to say, I never expected to see God in a box of Kotex, or a bolt of flannel. Then there was Donna on FaceBook. It just goes to show the Divine One likes a good game of hide and seek. Tag. You're it.

Wishing for you, a place to lend a helping hand,
Merry ME


Jo Dee said...

That is so sad. I never dreamed of poverty so extreme that girls couldn't afford to buy new tampons and or pads each month.

Thank you for doing the research to see how these girls can get asisatnce.
I will go check on the website!


p.s. you really made me think last time. Thank you for e-mailing me:)

Lilly said...

That was a really intersting post. I am going to check the website out too. So many issues that you give no thought to or never could even consider it a problem because wse are so lucky living in the wealthy countries we do. Thanks again for sharing this. By the way I found your blog on Jo Dee's blog list on her site. You are an excellent writer. I will be back to read some more.