President’s Letter – June 2015

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I begin this month’s comments with an appeal.

If you have some interesting things to say why not write something for future editions of the IHPE newsletter? I know there is a vast amount of expertise out there and I also know that we’d all benefit from learning from you, the members. Please think about creating a contribution to the newsletter . The deadline for the next issue is 31st July. I look forward to reading what you produce.

On another not, I see that there is an article in this edition about menstrual hygiene. It stirred some memories for me:

This article stirred some memories for me, from when I visited some Dogon villages in Mali, and saw the ‘menstrual huts’ where women are essentially confined once a month. At least, that was how I initially saw it. Then I came to realise that it’s never that simple. The women were complicit in that temporary incarceration. For them, it wasn’t so much about being ‘banished’ by the men, but rather having a space to protect their dignity. That’s particularly important, perhaps, when you live in a dry, dusty, barren village, built into rock, where the temperatures barely drop below 40 Celsius, and where you work all day in the fields, and where everybody knows everyone. Being able to ‘escape’ that once a month when they are often in pain is not something those particular women necessarily find troublesome.


It also made me think about a story I read not too long ago about a man in India who did not understand menstruation, despite being married, until one day he saw his wife rinsing out rags, and this started a difficult conversation.   He was shocked what she had to do because he said that he would not use those rags to clean his scooter, and he used his last few rupees to buy a disposable towel for his wife. But he did more than that. He spent years trying to figure out a way to make cheap sanitary products.  His family almost disowned him because they thought that he was insane and perverse.   He persevered.  He invented a machine which can be easily made, which then makes thousands of clean towels for a fraction of the cost of the big brands.  Villages all over India now benefit from this. Each machine employs ten women, making 250 pads a day. It is estimated that each machine will result in 3000 women being introduced to using sanitary towels. Arunachalam Muruganantham, I salute you. A man with little education, but the desire to do the right thing by his fellow citizens.  And, I repeat, a man. A man who cares. Menstrual hygiene, to me, is not exclusively a women’s problem. It’s an issue for all of us.  It’s about human dignity, health, and respect.  It really doesn’t matter who solves a problem.  It matters that it is solved.”


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