I watched the film Mother’s Day on a flight recently. It had little to boast aside from the casting of Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts, but I needed to pass the time. Plus, having a daughter of my own, there were a couple of comedic scenes that got me thinking.
Both featured the character Bradley, a widower and father of two daughters. In the first scene, he’s in the kitchen with his eldest teenage daughter, who is requesting he pick up some items from the supermarket. She lists off the essentials; juice, eggs and tampons. After seemingly mishearing her, Bradley asks her to repeat the last item. Again, she says ‘tampons’. After a short pause, he uncomfortably suggests he’ll just ‘write T’ on the list, because he’ll know what it means. The awkwardness is palpable.
The next time we see Bradley, he’s at the supermarket check-out piling items on the conveyor belt, when there’s a price check needed on the ‘organic tampons’ he selected. Seemingly, the culmination of all his fears – he snatches the packet from the check-out attendant’s hands in embarrassment.
Who knew getting tampons could be so humiliating?! As a woman, I can’t help but think that not having them is far worse.
Take Nisha’s scenario, for instance. She’s is a mother of three, from a small town in rural Bihar, India. With nowhere in the village to buy sanitary products, her teenage daughter, Reema missed school whenever she got her period. Aside from the lack of toilets, worry of her clothes staining easily through the rags she used during menstruation stopped Reema from leaving the house, or walking comfortably.
And she wasn’t alone. Nisha noticed other mothers and daughters in her village facing similar embarrassment and isolation.
But Nisha saw these challenges as a motivation. She started training to become a community health leader. Over six months she took lessons in basic health and hygiene – learning about the importance of building a toilet in her home, and how using sanitary napkins would prevent urinary infections.
She also learned basic first aid, how to cook more nutritious food for her family and what hospitals she could visit for free if her family became sick.
And the best bit? She started teaching others. So far, Nisha has taught over 200 mothers and daughters in her village about how to look after themselves better. She’s also selling sanitary napkins - 50-60 packets per month, in addition to milk from her buffalos. And Reema is going to school everyday again.
Periods. Tampons. Sanitary napkins. Issues for women everywhere. #AllWorldProblems.
Yes, buying tampons might be a little awkward for us. Maybe. But for all Bradley’s discomfort – I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want his daughter skipping school, or walking around with stained clothing just to avoid a shopping trip. But he had the benefit of knowledge. Of access. Of finances.
And don’t all women deserve that?
Join us as Women4Women India – that's women in Australia working together to help better the lives of women in India. With just $500 you can train a community health leader to help 200 more mothers and daughters. Start a fundraiser or donate all or part of the amount here.
Sarah Hornby is Opportunity International Australia's Supporter Development Manager, creating opportunities for our supporters to make a difference in their world.