I am once again spamming your friendlist/blogroll with publicity for the charity Goods 4 Girls. Because they’re just that nifty. One of the most important things that a developing (or developed, for that matter) country can do to combat poverty is to educate and empower women. In many parts of Africa, that is made more difficult by the fact that girls do not have sufficient protection during their periods to attend classes without embarrassment. Girls use old rags and newspapers, and in some cases are forced to trade sex for disposable products. Proctor & Gamble are trying to “help” by distributing disposable pads and tampons. On the surface, this is useful. Many young women are able to stay in school longer when they have higher-quality protection. But even aside from the fact that it forces communities to buy into the disposable consumerist economy, which they probably can’t afford once P&G stops giving them free or subsidized tampons, many of these communities are not equipped to deal with disposables. They burn their trash, which means that all those lovely dioxins and such that are in pads and tampons are going into the air, causing problems for both humans and the environment in general.
Goods4Girls to the rescue! This lovely charity is collecting high-quality washable pads to distribute to African schools and communities. The pads are similar to what girls and women are already using, but much higher quality, including a waterproof liner. These areas have sufficient clean water to safely wash the pads just like they are already doing with the cloths they currently use. One of the communities that they have already distributed pads to is considering investing in sewing equipment so that women there can sew pads, both for their own use and for sale, and the aid organizations that do the actual distribution are so far working with schools to teach girls about sexual health and other topics relating to menstruation and puberty, as well as the proper care of their new pads.
You can donate money directly to G4G, sew pads yourself (they have patterns and suggestions for places to buy appropriate cloth), or donate pads through many online retailers. I’d particularly recommend New Moon Pads, where I recently bought some both for myself and for G4G. If you donate through them, you will be entered into a drawing for a sample pad pack. (Any mothers or soon-to-be mothers reading this may be interested to know that they also do cloth diapers.)