Why All the Fuss?

17:45 July 4, 2008
Gitarama, Rwanda

While I like to think that the Scharpf shuffle is an appropriate dance move, there is no place for dancing around the heart of the issue of menstrual management. So, what is the problem we’re trying to address? Who cares that there aren’t any affordable, quality, eco-friendly, sanitary napkins? This has been the case for thousands of years. Why do something about it now?

Today was a serious day. Today is the 4th of July—a day that marks the United States’ independence, but also the Rwandan day of liberation, or the end of the genocide. And today is about choice…choices for Tutsis, Hutus, men, women, girls, and boys. Since 1994, the people of Rwanda have been re-building their country from the genocide that wiped out approximately 1 million people in their country. Let me say that again, 1 million people. And the most recent focus of this reconstruction is on ensuring choice and developing economic opportunities. And that, is exactly what SHE is about.

SHE is about choice. SHE is about sustainable economic development.

Without affordable, quality sanitary napkins, girls and women lose their opportunity to choose. Girls cannot choose whether or not they go to school 4-5 days per month, up to 50 days in a year. They are absent from school on these days. And without consistent school attendance, girls may lag in school performance, ultimately leading to more limited economic potential. Women cannot choose whether or not they go to work 4-5 days per month, up to 50 days in a year. They are absent from work on these days. And absenteeism may thwart their ability to secure well paying jobs. This phenomenon not only severely limits their income-generating potential, but also harms entire communities as females’ economic success improves familial welfare overall with 80 cents of every dollar earned going to the family.

By the way, we're not talking about this problem existing in one country or two. If you haven't noticed, girls and women are everywhere! There are 3.3 billion of us! And there is evidence of this problem all over the world. Think about the power of that human capital which could drive economic growth!

So, as you can see, the problem is about females’ limited choice and untapped economic growth. Why allow a simple issue like sanitary napkins be one of the obstacles to addressing these problems?

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