Sunday, February 1, 2009
Protecting Futures Program, Somewhere in Africa
As someone interested in Africa, at first the Protecting Futures Program sounded like a wonderful idea. And there are still parts of it that really can improve girls' lives. But getting them hooked on expensive, disposable pads isn't necessarily one of them.
Here's a quote from the website:
In some parts of the world, girls can't go to school if they have their period.
That's what happens to some girls in Southern Africa. Why? They don't have tampons or pads.
This is not entirely accurate, but it is definitely being played up for a Western audience, most of which will have a hard time understanding just what girls might be doing with their blood if they don't have tampons or pads. Most women in Africa use cloth, which they wash and use again.
The truth is, there are a myriad of reasons why girls in Africa will miss school. UNICEF cites high school fees, sexual harassment from teachers and pregnancy as just a few. It is true that girls will stay home from school during their period, but not just because they don't have tampons or pads. Many schools don't have adequate latrines or water, meaning there is no place for a girl to change whatever method of protection she might be using.
Procter & Gamble, along with donating millions of pads to "Africa" (it's annoying that in the commercial they don't specify where...it's just some quintessential "African" village) is installing latrines and pumping in water to some of the schools they have partnered with. The hygiene part of the program seems untouchable. How could you really criticize that? But the donating of pads makes me very skeptical. Here are the questions I have, that I can't find answers to on the website:
1. If the girls receive free pads while they are students, what are they expected to do when they graduate? How will they receive or buy the pads they've grown used to?
2. Why is P&G not teaching the girls reusable methods of protection? Wouldn't that be better for the girls' economic situation and their nations' environmental situations?
3. What will P&G teach the girls to do with the waste? If they throw the pads down the latrine, the latrines P&G built will fill up faster. If they put them in the trash, they must be burned, using up firewood or kerosene- also not cheap or easy to come by.
4. Are there plans, somewhere in the vaults, that P&G has about opening up a vast market share in Somewhere, Africa? In all honesty, could the company say that it isn't looking at these girls as future customers?
Red Tent Sisters