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TEDxRainier - Nancy Muller

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(applause) and the subject... Sanitary pads. I must admit it's a little odd when I am at dinner party and people ask what I do, and I say I work in the pad and I'm working on the sanitary pads. But I have to tell you it's something I'm generally patient about and I'm gonna tell you why. Mik Beatrice, she is twelve years old,she lives in Uganda with her grandmother, her sisters and brothers both her parents died of HIV some time ago. And one morning she wakes up, walks in the _________ in the dark with her little sister, and discoves she's bleeding. She is scared.This has never happened before. She doesn't tell anybody. But the next day,when it's still going on, she gets the courage to tell her grandmother, and her grandmother says, Beatrice, You're now a woman. and this is gonna happen every month. Well... It's the fact not bad enough. (laughing) She tells what her options are. And her options include all rags, or towels, or newspapers, her school notebooks, paper leaves, grass, ash, and even dune. and Beatrice, thinks about this. Because even of she could find the way to keep the rags and place cause she doesn't have any underwear. She thinks about school where there's one latrine for about four hundred kids. and also her teacher in school is a male. and she thinks about how it's gonna feel when she has to say she needs to be excused a couple of times today to use latrine Umm...she also thinks about the boys in her class will definitely gonna tease her even more than they really do and it's a little daunting to think about how she's gonna manage this. She finds out the fact the few shops in town sold imported sanitary pads but, then she hears the bad news that they cost dollars thirty for pack of six Her brother is the only one who earns any money, and he brings home a dollar a day. So, Beatrice started to notice the girls, the older girls at school are missing school like four five days a month. And then the bunch of them just start going all together. And... Beatrice's to start to miss school. And yet, we konw that everything changes when the girl was educated. Some studies in Uganda and gonna have showed that 30 to 50 percent reduction in school absenteeism when a girl has sanitary pads and underwear. girls who complete secondary school, less likely to get HIV, less likely to get pregnant when they are young, more likely to have fewer children, more likely to have a job with a higher wage, and more likely to educate their own children. Girls are good investment. So, what's my connection? I was twelve, and lived in Uganda with my family. We moved there in fact way after I started my period. And yet my mother brought with us enough sanitary pads to sink a ship. (Laughing) For my sisters and myself. I didn't ever have to think about it or worry about it. You know and I have to admit in my privilege. It never occur to me what are Uganda girls did. It didn't occur to me until four years ago. I was flying home from Uganda as it happens back to Seattle to pass where I work. And, a friend on the airplane said, "What do you think girls in Africa do when they have the period?" I was dumb thumbed. I couldn't believe in all my years in living overseas working with pads for 20 years. I had never thought about it. And I didn't know what the answer was, but I was pretty sure it wasn't tampons. And I decided at that moment this is something I needed to work on. The next time when I'm back to Uganda, I happen to run into a very creative Uganda engineer who is making an incinerator. I was working on medical way, still I'm not sure if Uganda burn down my career path here but... But...(Laugh) Anyway that interests me a lot, too. Ha ha... (Laugh) So...um... I was talking to him about the incinerator. I said, "What ever inspire you to make an incinerator? Not a lot of people think about that ." And he said," Was to get rather an incinetaor nap than in front girl's school'. I was so excited. Ha...(Laugh) I mean you know you gotta understand, nobody talks about this issue. I said, "What did the girls use?" and he said, "Um...Anything they can get their hands on." And I said, that's why I'm making sanitary pads. out of papyrus and old paper. I couldn't believe it and he said "But the needed so huge,I can't keep up with it." And then not long after that somebody else approached doesn't. She was looking a way to make sanitary pads but banana fiber. And this just think like a kind of thing path to do some thing about Pad is a global public health organization. We often look for technologies related solutions for on that unveiled public health needs and we always look for solutions that are culturally appropriate that are technically feasible. They are innovative and they.. are affortable. I mean that's related bottom line. They have to be affortable or there is no product. And we call this “The Art of Possible”. So in the cases of sanitary pads, we...we started to looking at what people are currently using and there were three obvious...directions. Two of them, the ones... on the middle of right are reusable options. The middle one is the purpose made for reusable cloth sanitary pad. And the one on the right is a...um menstrual cup or menstrual sponge. It’s a similar concept. And the one on the left is a disposable pad. So it’s really appealing the idea, "the reusable product". Because you don’t have to throw them away very often. The cup lasts for ten years, so.. And the pad approaches the girls and women are using now seem like a pretty good fit. But then as we started to looking into more. We realize there's very well challenges for one both of those have much higher up front cost. And that alone can be a complete barrier. And then also they both require access to clean water. And to soap, to..to make sure that they are not gonna be getting infections if they are not using the clean product. And those are…you know not always available and there increasing scarcely especially with water so...there's another aspect too in it um... they require a girl, a woman to feel comfortable handling blood and...blood....you know potentially is infected with HIV or hepatits B or C so...um...we're starting looking idea we disposable pad. I...I'm...__ the world recycling myself so, you know, it didn't really... it haven't work in medical way just like I said. I didn't really...you know, like the idea in disposable. but on the other hand, it had the appeal of being something that was uninitiated much more affordable up front. um....and....it we heard from...you know, it..some of...the few studies, it has been done in this area. That it something of girls and women prefer if they could have this disposable, that's what they want it. And...also there are pretty absorbent it. Um, so... the down side, you know, they're disposable. And insistences, were they're very poor sanitation structures. That's an real issue. It's a real consideration. I'm also...you know, as we know That was we made with plastics. In order to make them...you know, hold in the blood. and...so... you know, That's a challenge. So, we started thinking about what will be more affordable options for something that was absorbent. And we were so lucky to be right here, in Seattle, where we have two of the world leading experts. In...um...forth street, and paper fipper. In university Washington, and ware houser. And...so with university Washington, we... had this...idea of what could we use that would be totally free? Um....to make absorbent material and the idea was to use agricultural waste materials So, we started with banana fiber, rice, corn, straw, wheat... Um...couple other things. And they took everyone of those in able to pop those into absorbent materials, so which is... on the left is actually banana fiber, pop into something that was absorbent. And, this was pretty exciting. and then we are starting looking at little more costed. We realize that they might be free, but, in fact, there are lots of other issues. Like you have to transport the waste materials from all the places when they are generated to a place to process them and... you know that transportation in Africa or Asia is it pretty scare commodity and expensive. Um, so wasn't quite straightforward and then we also realize popping pop milk are almost none existence in Africa. So...we...we're lucky too to find out from warehouser. There's some another approache in um...an existing rolls in premade absorbent material. They are shipped around the world. And that seems really appealing 'cause in fact that the rolls that oftenly much like the sanitary pads, we... you know, as you see... we cut them rectangles So they also said that approach could be very flexible in allowing us to fluff the material in country work with local business which we always tried to full foster industry in countries.And in .. finding west made fiber pads sanitary pads we marketed pick it days. The direction they went. And personally they think appeal to me the most is an idea of trying to find a way to use maybe by regrettable plastic to get around some of the environmental issues and also kind of higher ideas maybe coming up with a re-partially reusable um.. pad system that could hold the...absorbent material in place like the composable in.. interior absorbent part So I find that really exciting. And um...I don't know how to figure but so right now pads. We're literally needy in sanitary pads all around the world. We put out all points attended to all our travelrs to and asked them to collect pads wherever they go so we've got a whole bunch of them, that we're testing along with some from the U.S to try to figure out what are the standards and which should be trying to hit is a level of observety we want to make a better pad, not just a pad so in the process we're doing this, we are learning so much about what makes a good sanitary pad haha um.. by the way,this's not a real blood, it's paddle milk dyed red rag um...so this's We're exciting because we're learning a huge amounts and it's something that we can share with the very small groups in a contry to another country. they're working hard. with very little resource to try to come up with their own pads. so just to say, what's difference to make Beatrice and girls like her we dont know for sure, but they're not find solutions for global warming, and may not um.. you know, HIV,but it might, we dont know it until we heard this voice of these boys and girls the world is waiting it and it's the time we find out. (Applause) (Applause) (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 12 minutes and 48 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Phil Klein
Director: Nancy Muller, Nassim Assefi
Views: 169
Posted by: philklein on Dec 15, 2010

Nancy Muller is program officer at PATH specializing in global women's health issues. In this talk she discusses the importance of safe, low-cost sanitary pads and possible solutions for providing these.

TEDxRainier is an independently produced TED event held in Seattle, Washington.

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