Some girls in sub-Saharan Africa have a hard time being educated. Even if they are considered worthy of it, their families may not be able to afford the fees, or the absence of their work at home. When they do manage to attend school they may find there is little or no sanitation, and this causes many to skip school if they are menstruating, or giving up altogether.
The Plan International project I mentioned in an earlier post addresses this problem specifically, with toilet blocks designed in consultation with girls, and getting to the root of the problem. School attendance has improved sufficiently for the project to be rolled out to the rest of the country.
Two days ago Procter & Gamble FemCare brands announced a similar program in Kenya.
Working with HERO, the Protecting Futures program brings together the brands' global resources to help make a positive impact on these young girls by improving access to feminine hygiene products as well as education and health services, said Michelle Vaeth, Protecting Futures Program Director for P&G.
The program will bring puberty education, traveling health educators, nutritious feeding programs, educational support services, a pad distribution program, and significant construction projects to nine schools in the first year.
All very fine until I reached the pad distribution program, and I started to wonder if Tampax or Always are really suited to a life of poverty or near-poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The costs of continuing provision will be high and who will cover those costs when the girls leave school? How will they manage when the facilities provided at the school are no longer available to them?
I would have been happier if they were providing mooncups which are much safer, re-usable and last for years. I can't help feeling that there is little altruism in Procter & Gamble's efforts, and that they are hoping to turn the girls into paying customers. And it starts to sound a tiny bit like the free samples of baby milk powder distributed even where it is ill-advised, just to stimulate a market.
I suppose it's not surprising that the announcement appears in CNN Money.