Anyone that has talked to me in the last year and a half (or anyone who has read this blog) knows that I am deeply passionate about women’s health and the improvement of women’s lives worldwide. This past year and a half, I have spent my time working on various projects involving women. From my employment on the Native CARS Study, work with survivors of sex-trafficking through Save a Survivor’s Smile, my acceptance into an MD/MPH program where I plan to pursue women’s health, to the development of my non-profit organization SHELTER International, which aims to improve the lives of widows in rural Andhra Pradesh, India, it’s a wonder I ever made it outside (but I am so thankful that I did as there is just so much to hike…)!
Today, May 28th, is Menstrual Hygiene Day. As females in the developed world, menstruation is still a pain, but we simply have to make a trip to the drug store to cheaply purchase feminine hygiene products to manage our menses. In rural India (and many other parts of the world), menstruation is a whole different fiasco. Imagine having to travel a significant distance to a town large enough to have a market where they can sell feminine hygiene products. Now imagine spending half-a-week’s (or thereabouts) salary on expensive and imported sanitary napkins. Obviously, most women in this situation spend their hard-earned cash on food or school for their children and simply do without this “luxury.”
Instead of using a hygienic product, women use bits of old cloth and sometimes even newspapers or sand to manage their menses. Due to embarrassment (as I am sure you can imagine), these cloths are rarely cleaned or sanitized and have been reported to increase the incidence of disease in the reproductive track. As these solutions can hardly be considered solutions, women and girls often have to stay home from school or work so that they can manage their menses. In turn, women have just one more reason to make less money and girls often fall behind their male peers in school.
So, in an effort to help the area’s widows as well as pursue my passion for feminine hygiene (I realized feminine hygiene was a problem for many Indian women when I taught health and hygiene to girls in Tamil Nadu, India), my organization is trying to raise funds to purchase a machine to manufacture sanitary napkins. The machine will employ 10-20 widows and the low-cost product will be sold to women and girls in the area. I have wanted to get this project going for a year and a half and, after much research and planning, it is happening! We (SHELTER International) are also very fortunate to have several graduate students from Pacific University heading to the project site this summer to oversee and study the project’s implementation. I personally cannot wait to go back to India at my earliest availability to see the project in action!
Anyways, after spending so much time and energy working towards something, I am ecstatic to see a project that I am so passionate about finally coming through. Check out the Indiegogo campaign page, read about widows, learn more about the importance of menstrual hygiene, and women reading this post: be thankful that you are fortuitous enough to manage your menses in a way that doesn’t completely interrupt life!