By: Habiba Cooper Diallo
We are living in one of, if not, the most technologically advanced and wealthy ages known to human kind. We have sent man to the moon, and it seems that rockets are sent into outer space with the same frequency as commercial flights. In 2016 the tourism industry generated a total global revenue of 8.3 trillion USD. Global military expenditure was at 1.7 trillion USD, while mining contributed over 600 billion USD to the global economy. Robots are now used to perform minimally-invasive surgeries and they have even become restaurant hosts!
Yet, despite all this wealth, millions of females do not have regular access to menstrual pads. It’s ironic because periods are the basic unit of life. I always say that without periods there is no life. No pregnancy. No people. No society. No industries. Still, many women and girls do not have anything to collect the blood that drips from their bodies every month. A process that is as normal as digestion, or as respiration, has become a nightmare for women.
So how is it that women have been left behind by all the progress the world currently enjoys? Why is it that individuals and community organizations have to hold fundraisers to provide sanitary napkins to girls in rural communities? Why is it that girls are missing school in both "developed" and underdeveloped nations because they cannot afford pads? Numerous articles have brought attention to the reality of British girls skipping school several days each month because they cannot afford sanitary pads. It is highly disconcerting that this is happening in a nation as rich as England, which spent 47 billion USD on defence in 2017.
Clearly, money 💰and technology 🚀are not the issue— whether in England or in Nigeria. What this therefore leads me to conclude is that women and girls are simply not cared about.
Middle and upper class women wherever in world manage to hold on. I am not saying that it's better for this demographic, as they experience difficulties at school and in the workplace involving the need to take time off from work during periods. At least, however they are able to purchase menstrual hygiene products and go through their periods with dignity. Poor women can't keep up in a capitalist system where everything from childbirth to a mammogram has turned into a market. It is agreed that both universal access to health care and education are fundamental human rights. But how will poor girls whose families cannot afford pads access education when menstruating? The lack of access to sanitary pads is a health care issue and health care is a human right that should not be commodified.
Society needs to go back to valuing women because we have regressed. The violence against women that we are witnessing now in music videos, on college campuses, or in this case, in the form of women’s inability to buy or receive menstrual pads, indicates that we are still living in an age of ignorance. Millions of women and girls are without dignity during their periods. They are open, exposed and unable to manage a biological process that is as normal as urination, yet one that is inherently powerful and life-giving. Without periods there is no life. No labour force. There are no industries. No creation of wealth. No Mercedes-Benz. No yacht. No villa. The world is because of periods.
Habiba Cooper Diallo
I am a Canadian end fistula advocate and blogger, and the founder of the Women’s Health Organization International, WHOI. I have been doing fistula awareness-building in Canada for the past 12 years. My work on fistula has led me to Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. I have been featured in Forbes, the HuffPost, and UNFPA