Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sanitary Pads in India: The World Americans Do Not Know

PBS News Hour ran a story about a man in India who discovered why women use rags instead of sanitary pads for their menstrual flow in India: Pads were simply too expensive. So he engineered an inexpensive way to produce inexpensive sanitary pads and now there are over 4000 factories producing this. He intentionally did not patent his process, hoping others would improve on it and help solve the problem of menstrual flow in India, where 75% of genitourinary tract infections are related to unsanitary rags stuffed up vaginas during menses.

I have heard from returning Americans about the bodies they saw floating in the Ganges, behind women washing laundry there, but it was only when I consulted Professor Google about this and came upon a "filthy India" site, apparently set up by some horrified Chinese that I grasped the full dimension of the problem. 

India is not just poor: It is home to a set of cultures which foster unsanitary conditions, from allowing cows to wander about defecating on public thoroughfares to dumping dead bodies into the Holy River so they can float out to sea, to stuffing vaginas with old rags.

When Indians come to live in the United States, apparently, they have no trouble adapting to our sense of sanitation.

The same may not be true of men from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, who find themselves in a public square in Cologne, Germany, side by side with attractive blonde women, out to celebrate Christmas eve.  Where they come from, groping women under these circumstances is de rigueur , but German women were not amused.

Do we have a war of cultures with the Muslim world?
Yes, of course we do.
But we have always had conflict when we first came into contact with people who have different beliefs and values.
In the nineteenth century this was called colonialism, and before that, the slave trade was part of this.   In those cases, high tech cultures imposed misery on people of low tech cultures. But it is also possible for high tech cultures to relieve suffering and improve the lives of people from low tech cultures.
Slavers rationalized kidnapping slaves in a variety of ways, but one rationalization was that they were bringing civilization to the slaves. When the slaves arrived, religious people slapped some Christianity on them. So they were saved. Enslaved, but saved.
In fact, I was struck by Black American friends who returned from a trip to Africa, to discover their roots, and they returned horrified by the poverty, the lack of sanitation and the misery.  Were they thanking the slave traders for getting them out of Africa? No. But they could see that the misfortune of their ancestors did eventually result in a benefit to them and their own children.

Economic globalization has surged way beyond cultural globalization. We have a radiologist sitting in Delhi, reading a CT scan for a patient in Silver Spring, Maryland, and outside his window a corpse is floating down the Ganges as women wash their family's laundry in that river.
What a wonder the modern world is.

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