Menstruation in the Developing World

| 3/31/2010 11:21:32 AM

Sanitary by Glaros

It’s ridiculous that the topic of menstruation still makes most folks squeamish. Women feel obligated to conceal this often-dramatic monthly occurrence—and it’s no small effort.

For those of us in the developed world, there are many options for concealing our shame. They range from conventional pads and tampons, to a vast array of more eco-friendly products, to what Jezebel cheekily dubs “the ‘period undies’ you didn’t know you needed.”

For women in the developing world, the consequences of menstruation can well exceed embarrassment and discomfort. As Elizabeth Scharpf and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff note in The Huffington Post, “Ten percent of school-age African girls miss school because of a lack of access to affordable sanitary products.” In Rwanda, “half the girls are missing school due to menstruation and the main reason given is that sanitary pads are too expensive. For women, 24% miss work—up to 45 days per year—for the same reason. This not only limits girls' educational and women's professional achievement, but leads to a significant economic loss for nations.”

There is an organization working to alleviate this burden. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) helps women in developing countries manufacture and distribute sanitary products made from sustainable, locally available materials.

“Thirty years ago,” write Scharpf and Kauder Nalebuff, “Gloria Steinem published one of her most famous essays, If Men Could Menstruate. There would be no taboos. Men would brag about how long and how much. And sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. It's time we do a better job helping our sisters around the world.”

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