What should women do in a country where sanitary napkins cannot be used?

Elynn Walter walked into the office of the Global Health Organization and Management Center and would shout: “Stand up and shout with me, menstruation! Half of the people in the world have menstruated! She always likes to attract people’s attention in this way.

[Menstrual Hygiene] In the past, people were always ashamed to talk about it, but she has always been committed to getting people to pay attention to and talk about related issues.

Turn a blind eye to

Walter is an activist promoting health care in low-income countries.

She works for an organization called [WASH Promotion]. Among them, WA stands for Water, S stands for Sanitation, and H stands for Hygiene.

Walter’s concern is very special: in developing countries, tens of millions of girls are at a loss about menstruation.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, More than half of schools in poor countries do not have the capacity to build toilets. At the same time, Girls in many developing countries do not have the money to buy sanitary napkins or tampons, Some areas do not even have access to these goods at all. Walter said, The challenge of solving these problems is so great that even experts dealing with poverty will feel embarrassed and offended when talking about this problem. She believes that it is precisely because people are too sensitive to menstrual hygiene that various health promotion and development organizations around the world have turned a blind eye to this problem for many years.

She said: “No one is willing to face this problem, which does not mean that the problem itself does not exist. Fundamentally speaking, this is a feminist issue, which can be simply understood as these women just want some of their own privacy.”


Fortunately, at least now, more and more people have begun to pay attention to the menstrual health problems of women in these developing countries.

Marni Sommer is one of them.

Recalling that she first set foot in this field in 2004, she would also laugh: “Imagine people asking you at dinner that your graduation thesis is what? And my doctor’s research topic is menstruation, how should I answer him? ]

Now, Somor is already a professor at the Melman School of Public Health at Columbia University in the United States. As early as when she was volunteering to teach in Eritrea, she began to try to solve this problem that troubled her very much.

She said: [Many girls drop out of school after puberty. When I was a graduate student, I began to read a lot of literature. I wanted to know why there is still such a huge gap between men and women in school education in low-income countries. ]

While reading the literature, she found many theories, but none of them mentioned the most critical problem that seemed obvious to her: for girls, menstruation will come when they reach puberty, while her school in Eritrea did not see any corresponding facilities, no toilets and no running water.

She explained: “I sometimes think that when I was a teenager, I would how and boys study together in the same classroom. Will I be willing to go to school when I reach that age? I went to a girls’ school, but even so, I would worry about embarrassing myself when I stood up in front of other girls to find blood on my skirt.]

Break through barriers

The only documentary report Somor can find on this issue is a 1924 article.

The awkward and shy attitude of people towards the issue is only one aspect of the problem, More importantly, improving menstrual hygiene for girls in developing countries requires the cooperation of activists in three completely [unrelated] areas, including water supply and sanitation, education and global health. For each of these three areas, menstrual hygiene is not a top priority.

Somor explained: [The specialists in water supply and sanitation are mostly men, I don’t think these experts don’t want to help these girls, I just think that they may not have thought that the local girls would face such problems at all. However, experts from the Global Health Promotion Organization only focus on those problems that really threaten the lives of girls. Because of our limited funds, in the field of public health, we can only focus on those problems that will cause death.]

However, experts from the Education Promotion Organization have long been committed to expanding and safeguarding girls’ right to education. By linking menstrual health issues with girls’ education, researchers like Somor have finally [miraculously] brought menstrual health issues to the attention of people.

Reduce costs

Many studies have been conducted in Africa, some Asian countries and Latin America. Although the scope of the survey and the number of respondents are limited, the current survey data all point out:

The problem has become so serious that every month girls drop out of school because of menstruation.

According to those girls, the lack of toilets in schools is only one of many difficulties. Another difficulty is the high price of easy-to-use and quality-guaranteed female hygiene products.

However, as major organizations and enterprises gradually pay attention to this issue, some non-profit organizations have provided a sum of money, while some profit-making enterprises have produced some cheap substitutes.

Some women’s self-help organizations in rural India have bought some semi-automatic machines that can make 200-250 sanitary pads a day. In Rwanda, an enterprise is training local women to use banana trunk fibers to make sanitary pads; In Uganda, a company has produced a washable reusable sanitary napkin pad for 500,000 girls in Africa.

Get rid of the bondage

At the annual meeting of menstrual health promotion activists in Washington this year, the latest underwear to be put on the market was unveiled. It is a bright purple underwear with waterproof bottom.

Founder Diana Sierra said: [This kind of underpants can be reused with mesh cloth bags in the middle, and liquid absorbable materials such as cotton cloth, hay, bandages, etc. can be stuffed into the cloth bags for use.]

Serra was born in Colombia and is an industrial product designer. During her internship in Uganda, she heard complaints from local girls and designed this padded, reusable sanitary napkin pad to match her underwear.

We are not building rockets, we are building sanitary napkins. But these two things have the same effect-take you out of the world now.]