Generation. Education. Period (G.E.P) have spent the past 2 seasons considering a variety of options in terms of future directions. Although this has at time been a frustrating process, it has ultimately been very worthwhile as it has allowed us to reflect on why we do service learning and be very deliberate in choosing our next steps based on ensuring that we are fulfilling our service learning goals.
One of the avenues that the group is considering heading down is to focus exclusively on sustainable menstrual health and hygiene within our own UWCSEA community (this includes not just students, but also the parent and teacher community). Freedom Cups is a Singapore based company selling sustainable menstrual cups. Each cup costs $33SIN and lasts for 15 years. Considering that a pack of 40 ‘Whisper’ brand pads cost around $9.90SIN in the supermarket the cup will pay for itself within a year. So Freedom Cups are not just environmentally sustainable but also economically sustainable. The cups are also socially sustainable (and thus satisfying all three ‘pillars’ of sustainability) as for every cup sold the company will supply one to a girl/woman in a developing countries in need of sanitary products. So far Freedom Cups have supplied products and training to women in countries such as Nepal, India, Nigeria and have also worked with domestic helpers at the H.O.M.E NGO here in Singapore.
The students and I agree that Freedom Cups seem like the exact sort of company that G.E.P would like to collaborate with. We could happily talk the talk. The problem is, the G.E.P students are reluctant to walk the walk…. The ‘walk’ in this case meaning the that the girls in G.E.P don’t want to try using the Freedom Cup. They are clearly nervous about using a product that does look rather large and cumbersome, and I get that. A Freedom Cup looks quite big to me too and I have (twice) been through childbirth! Maybe listening to young(er) ladies talk about using menstrual (or moon) cups would be useful. Listening to 1.38 mins to 3.10 mins of the podcast ep ‘Ladies We Need To Talk: More Than Pads or Tampons’ could help to dispel some of the fears around menstrual cups and also highlights the positive aspects of environmental sustainability and good economic sense.
Can we promote a product within our community if the students in the group won’t use it? The students never used the menstrual ‘kits’ when we were helping to fundraise for them to be made and distributed in Cambodia, and there was no expectation that they would. Why is that different? Why was it ok to suggest that girls in developing countries should be using a certain product when the girls (and teacher) in the G.E.P group used a totally different product, yet I am concerned about us promoting a different product within our own community to the one that we actually use. Isn’t this a huge double standard? Or am I worrying too much about issues of equity and fairness, and in fact G.E.P members don’t need to personally use menstrual cups in order to successfully promote them (just as they didn’t need to use menstrual kits in order to promote them). To what extent should we as G.E.P members be walking the walk in relation to our use of the products we promote?
– Written by Melanie Wilson