In fact, I'm kind of thinking that men have coined most of the subhuman phrases to basically devalue an albeit inconvenient but vital process for procreating humanity into perpetuity. Right down to the Donald's off color, ill-conceived and some what subliminal referral to what seemed like Ms. Kelly's period during a presidential debate, men (and women too!) have have blasted, sneered at, made fun of and grumbled over a woman's menstrual cycle through out history. And here in our Western civilization especially, we women have largely ignored the jokes and ridicule partly because we have the "luxury" of handling our bodies conveniently and without great notice... and of course, with the help of a ceaseless array of products, pills, sprays and whatever else we might need. We breeze through our cycles and never miss a beat in our busy lives - we can "even ride bicycles and swim!" and we teach our daughters to do the same. We don't even know the meaning of a curse.
Such is not the case in third world countries. Njeri was born in Kenya and came to the U.S. to further her education. She is a mother, grandmother and on-fire Christian today and an active advocate for changing the lives of young girls in Africa through one means: sustainable, reusable sanitary pads. She knows first hand the "power of the pad" because she was there. She lived the nightmare growing up.
There are no menstrual products in most remote regions of the world. Even if we do-gooders shipped cases of Always and Kotex products to Africa, they have no organized means of disposing them, let alone toilets to flush them (even though we know you're not supposed to do that!). Young girls, from the first days of their period are taught how to handle their cycle but the only means available - grass, leaves, sticks, feathers, rocks and if they're lucky, mattress stuffing - anything to stay in school. They are shunned and shamed by boys, so as a result they stay home and miss up to eight months of schooling over a three year period. Some girls have sat in a pile of dirt for those days if they have nothing to use, adding to their shame. If they are really lucky, they have a make-shift barrier made from harsh animal skin strapped to their legs, while they stand to take tests at school. But even worse, many are forced into prostitution by men at the tender age of 11 or 12, trading sex for pads. We can't even imagine such a deplorable scenarios.
It rocked my soul to listen to Njeri. Her words of encouragement to the sew fest ladies were moving. We ARE changing the life of a young girl somewhere on the other side of the world. Just like our little dresses, these hygiene kits are a small sacrifice of time in order to give a girl dignity and a fighting chance for a better life. Who knew such a life could be impacted by such a small thing?
To learn more about Njeri's non-profit organization, go to Upendo Women's Foundation, which she founded. Njeri uses kits similar to those we make through our Days for Girls. Come to a Bayside sew fest and help make these life-changing kits yourself.
Laurel. The Power of the Pad.