If you’re a man who normally reads my blog, you may be tempted to skip this blog post because it makes you uncomfortable. But if the Amish men and Old Order Mennonite men can handle it, so can you. Be brave; read on!
My junior high had a pool, and we were required to take swimming lessons as part of our gym experience. The swimming itself was fine. The locker room experience and the stretched-out Speedo bathing suits you picked up from the gym nazi were another story.
But what made the whole experience even more horrible was that junior high is usually the age when girls began menstruating. And if you were or weren’t, everyone, including the boys, in your swim class knew. If you had your period, you sat on the bench beside the pool rather than getting in the water. Maybe even worse, if you hadn’t started menstruating, you never sat on the sidelines, and everyone knew you were not yet a woman.
Ah, junior high humiliations. We probably all have them.
But for girls throughout the world, the start of menstruation brings much more than humiliation. It brings the end to school.
In many cultures, menstrual taboos mean girls cannot go to school while having their period. It’s much worse than me sitting on the side of the pool. They miss 20 percent or more of their education. Many are made to leave school for good.
Women the world over lack access to sanitary products. They might use old rags or dried leaves to absorb their monthly flow. The results aren’t pretty, or sanitary. Women stay hidden, missing out on opportunities for education, for leadership, and for a full life.
Global Aid Network (GAiN) is helping to restore dignity to women around the world through the simple gift of Luopads. Luopads are washable feminine pads that are distributed to women in developing countries. And they are made by individuals just like you—yes, even by men.
At the GAiN logistics center in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania, volunteers sew and pack Luopads. Mt. Joy is here in Lancaster County, home of large Amish and Old Order Mennonite populations, and they volunteer regularly for GAiN. Al Goff, president of GAiN, told us they were sure the men of these conservative groups would shy away from this project. And yet he arrived at the warehouse to see men in plain dress sewing and packing Luopads.
You don’t have to come to GAiN headquarters to help meet this very real, but very neglected, need. You can purchase old flannel sheets and make them yourself or with your family. Simply follow the instructions and patterns GAiN provides. Or take it a step further by getting your church or civic club involved. GAiN has a leader’s guide to assist you.
I remember the day back in junior high when one liberated young woman proudly informed the gym teacher, “I have my period, but I am wearing a tampon, so I can get in the pool.”
Are you man enough—or woman enough—to help women around the world get into the pool of dignity, equality, and opportunity?