Helping African girls stay in school – one pad at a time?

Cross-posted at BlogHer

In 2007 FemCare, the Procter & Gamble (P&G) unit that makes Always pads and Tampax tampons, started a program called “Protecting Futures” to donate Always disposable sanitary pads to girls in southern Africa in hopes of keeping African girls in school. In Africa, where adequate menstrual supplies are generally nonexistent, it is not uncommon for girls to use newspapers, rags or camel skin to try contain their period. Rather than risk the embarrassment of bleeding through their clothes, many girls stay home from school during their cycle each month, which can lead to them falling behind in their studies and possibly dropping out of school altogether. Always, as well as Tampax currently have commercials encouraging people to buy their products to help these African girls stay in school. Two of the commercials can be viewed here.

In addition to donating disposable sanitary pads, P&G will donate fresh water; build bathrooms near the schools so the girls have access to privacy and incinerators to deal with the waste that will be generated from the disposable pads, packaging, etc.; start a health, hygiene and puberty education program; and provide the girls with healthcare.

What’s in it for P&G a New York Times article asks.

A great deal, marketing experts say. For one, girls who use free pads today can turn into paying customers when they grow out of the school programs. They could persuade their mothers and aunts to use the products.

“When you need to change a culture, it’s good strategy to start with the younger generation,” said Jill Avery, an assistant professor of marketing at the Simmons School of Management.

And the program sits well with the Kenyan government, which has cut tariffs on Procter’s sanitary pads. Lisa Jones Christensen, an assistant professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, who is familiar with Procter’s philanthropy programs, says that Procter receives special treatment when its containers hit Kenya’s docks.

“No one is saying, ‘Just unload the pads, leave the boxes of Tide,’ ” she said. “This program is giving P&G a license to operate in Africa for all its products.”

There is a payback in the developed world, too. “The idea of keeping an African girl in school resonates strongly with our consumers,” Ms. Vaeth said.

They aren’t the only skeptics. A. at A Changing Life wonders what the girls will do once they no longer have access to the pads.

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 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.

Vanessa at Green As A Thistle feels P&G “are missing the bigger picture.”

I mean, it’s great that they want to help girls out with this difficult time of the month and make sure they stay in school, but is the best way to do that with bleached wads of cotton and disposable plastic? It made me fret, I must say.

Maia at Touchingly Naive believes it is wrong to push Western products on these women and “to make women in developing countries believe (as we already believe) that they need Western pads and tampons instead of more sustainable and/or traditional solutions.”

What do you think? Does Procter & Gamble have any business getting involved here, whether it is in the name of education or not? Could they be causing more harm than good?

Goods for GirlsDeanna Duke of Crunchy Chicken took issue with the environmental impact of all of the disposable pads (and possible pollutants emitted from the incinerators) and, after mulling it over on her blog, decided to take action. She started Goods 4 Girls, a web site to organize the collection and distribution of new reusable menstrual pads to African girls.

Goods 4 Girls was started to seek out donors to sew or purchase new, reusable menstrual pads for donations to areas of Africa where these products are needed most. Providing reusable supplies not only provides a more environmentally friendly alternative for these young women (in areas of adequate water supply for washing), it reduces their dependence on outside aid organizations to continue providing for their monthly needs. Working in concert with aid and relief organizations, we identify areas of need and have the ability to distribute the donations where they are most needed.

Some might wonder why Goods 4 Girls is focusing on reusable menstrual pads rather than menstrual cups like the DivaCup or Keeper. Deanna says it is “because of potential hygiene issues, using a reusable menstrual product that gets inserted into the body requires additional education and “processing” such as cleaning the cup with boiled water. Additionally, we are culturally sensitive to potential taboos with young girls using an insertable product.” That and other questions are answered in the FAQ.

Goods 4 Girls has received positive responses from several organizations, but one of the primary ones they will be working with is located in Uganda. The relief organization had this to say about the current situation in their country:

The girls’ problems in South Africa are not different from those in Uganda, except that it is worse here. We recently watched a TV program which highlighted this problem in the villages to the extent that some children missed their end of year exams because of their inability to contain their menstrual outflows or had never even used a pad at all!

Your offer has come at the right time and we pledge our full support and cooperation in this endeavor. Our target areas are firstly and foremost the schools both in towns and villages, with the latter taking priority.

If you are interested in learning more about Goods 4 Girls and how you can help, I encourage you to read more here. To add a banner to your site and help spread the word, please see the contact page.

Green Tip of the week #13 – The power of baking soda

Baking soda – it’s not just for baking!

If I could only have one type of cleaning product for my whole house, it would be baking soda – pure and simple. Non-toxic baking soda has so many practical uses without the worry of harsh chemicals. Here are just a few:

  • Safely clean baby or pet toys – Use 4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water. Wash toys with a clean damp sponge or cloth, rinse and dry.
  • Clean baby equipment (stroller, high chair, changing table, exersaucer, swing, etc.) – Just sprinkle baking soda on a clean damp sponge and rub the item clean. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.
  • Freshen and deodorize carpets – sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up
  • Cleaning bathroom tubs, tile and sinks – even shiny fiberglass and glossy tiles- sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry.
  • Freshen sponges – Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess and bring in the fresh (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water).
  • Clean your produce of dirt and other residue – Just sprinkle a little baking soda on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse.
  • Clean your counter tops – Sprinkle baking soda onto a clean damp sponge or cloth and wipe clean, rinse thoroughly, then dry.

What else do YOU use baking soda for?

Thanks to Arm & Hammer for many of these great tips.

Have any green tips you’ve recently learned? Please email them to me and I may include your tip with a link to your site or blog in a future post. 🙂

And the money goes to…

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted about the new Mothers Milk Bank of New England’s quest to win $10,000 from Ideablob? Guess what! They won!!

Thanks to everyone who voted and posted about it elsewhere. Your willingness to vote and spread the word will make such a difference to many babies and families in the New England area! 🙂

You can read more about the big announcement over on Ideablob and here’s a link to the Mothers Milk Bank of New England.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the IRS

On Wednesday Jody and I got a surprise letter from the IRS, an early Valentine if you will, stating we owed $2,000 in back taxes from 2006. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

Apparently we made an error in filing our 2006 taxes and failed to include some stocks Jody received through work. He was under the impression that taxes were already deducted; they were not. It was an honest mistake on our part, but a mistake nonetheless and the IRS has come a-knocking to claim what is theirs – with interest.

The shock of finding out we will need to part with $2,000 by March 15 has put a damper on the love-fest that should accompany Valentine’s day. Thankfully, we have the money to send, but it was earmarked for paying down debt and preschool tuition, and will pretty much wipe out our savings account.

I’m trying to take it all in stride, but it’s hard and I admit I’ve been in a funk most of the day. It messes with our short- (debt) and probably long-term (moving) goals, but I know we will make the money back eventually.

This has made me consider returning to photography, perhaps just for the spring and summer, when it’s optimal to work outside with natural light anyway. We shall see.

For now I’m going to try to forget about it for at least an hour while I go eat a brownie and watch LOST. So there. ;oP

Last-minute Green Valentine’s Day Tips

green heartInspired by Crunchy Chicken’s recent funny posts – Planning a Green Valentine’s and Sex is Greeny, I assembled my own green list for last-minute Valentine’s day preparations.

  1. Chocolate – In my opinion you can never do wrong giving chocolate as a gift, just make sure it is the fair trade (slavery-free) variety. Here’s a list of companies known to sell fair trade cocoa products:
    • Clif Bar
    • Cloud Nine
    • Dagoba Organic Chocolate
    • Denman Island Chocolate
    • Gardners Candies
    • Green and Black’s
    • Kailua Candy Company
    • Koppers Chocolate
    • L.A. Burdick Chocolates
    • La Siembre
    • Montezuma’s Chocolates
    • Newman’s Own Organics
    • Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company
    • Rapunzel Pure Organics
    • The Endangered Species Chocolate Company

    — Slavery Free Chocolate?

  2. Candles – Candles are great for setting the mood for a relaxing, romantic dinner and evening, but there’s nothing sexy about the smoke and strong odors given off if they are petroleum based. Instead look to soy candles as a natural alternative to light up your life. Soy candles burn cleaner and last longer than petroleum wax. Soy is a renewable resource, is biodegradable and is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. There’s a great local company here that makes wonderful soy candles called Naked.
  3. Cards/love letters – Save the trees and send a Valentine e-card or write a love email instead.
    • Care2 E-cards – For every eCard sent, Care2 makes a donation to an environmental nonprofit to save a square foot of rainforest. How cool is that?
  4. Charitable giving – Show your loved one that you care for them and others by giving to the charity of your loved one’s choice. Network for Good allows you to choose the amount to give, and your Valentine can select the charity of their choice.
  5. Sweet Treats – If you want to tint your cookies and treats shades of red, skip the artificial food coloring (Red No. 40) and unwanted side effects – hyperactive kids, anyone? – and go with a natural coloring instead. Check with your local health food/natural grocer.

However you celebrate this Valentine’s day, hope you have a good, green lovin’ one!

Photo credit: Tim Brown Photography

Wordless Wednesday – 2/13/08 – I heart brownies

Check out the heart that showed up in my first batch of brownies made from scratch. It’s like they knew Valentine’s day was right around the corner (oh, and how much I love brownies too)! 🙂 Seriously, I didn’t alter the brownies or the photo at all. This is how they came out of the oven. Jody declared them “Valentine’s brownies” and I said, “I have to take a picture of that!”

Brownies with heart -2/7/08

More Wordless Wednesday.

Midwives, home birth proven safe – contrary to ACOG’s false assertion

Today I’m writing over at BlogHer about the recent statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reiterating their stance opposing home birth and Certified Professional Midwives. The ACOG suggests that women are choosing to birth at home because it’s “fashionable” and “trendy” and accuse moms of placing the birth experience over the health of their baby. They say home birth is unsafe and fail to acknowledge rigorous scientific studies (and current practices in other countries) proving the contrary, that midwifery and home birth are safe practices. In other words, instead of being an advocate for women’s health (as they claim they are), they do a nice job of perpetuating FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

The truth is the ACOG is getting nervous because women are talking, thinking and questioning the status quo.

I hope you will head on over to BlogHer to read my thoughts and detailed research on this subject.

Third Blogiversary and BSM – painted sky

Three years ago today I started this blog without any real expectations, just a need for a space to share my thoughts and passions. And that is what I have done, but not without learning a lot about people, human nature and life along the way.

My blog itself has evolved a lot over the years. It started with Blogger as Musings of a Crunchy Domestic Goddess, changed to WordPress and then, after I registered my own domain, it got a groovy blog makeover and a shorter name – Crunchy Domestic Goddess. In three years, I’ve gained many readers, as well as lost some along the way. I’ve participated in blogging carnivals, theme days, contests, and giveaways – even done a few gift guides. I’ve met (virtually, anyway) so many amazing women (and a few men) through blogging. And I’ve learned a great deal about a variety of things – from photography to composting to vegetarian/vegan cooking, from Waldorf education to making butter (a post on that coming soon) to politics, from honesty in blogging to learning you attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

It’s been a fun, interesting and sometimes exhausting ride and I have enjoyed sharing it with you all. I look forward to another year of learning, laughing, sharing and growing together. Before I get too sappy, I just want to say thanks for being here. 🙂

I know I said I was going to have a giveaway ready for today to celebrate my 3rd blogiversary but time slipped away from me this weekend, between the beautiful and productive day we had on Saturday and Jody’s birthday (brunch with my sis and her beau, making chocolate banana bread and blueberry bread, grocery shopping, making dinner, etc.) on Sunday. So I didn’t get the details ironed out for the giveaway yet, but it will happen soon, probably later this week. Stay tuned.

And now, onto Best Shot Monday…
While I picked up my point & shoot camera often to take a lot of snapshots this week, I didn’t pick up my SLR much except to capture another beautiful sunset out our office/playroom window. We’re fortunate to get such beautiful skies on a regular basis here in CO. This is my best shot for the week.

Sunset in CO - picture taken from my office window - 2/9/08

You can see more from Best Shot Monday participants over at Mother May I.
Best Shot Monday