Refugees and sanitary pads

I haven’t written anything about the refugee crisis however it has definitely been on my mind and yes, I’m just as opinionated about this as I am about everything else 🙂

It’s hard not to notice how the majority of the desperate-looking people who arrive in Europe by boat are men. Where are the women and children? I have seen a few, yes, but they seem to be mostly men. Data from UNHCR confirm this with men comprising 58% of arrivals to Europe by sea and women only 17%.women.png

One explanation for this is, I think, that in some cases the women and children stay at home while their partners make the dangerous journey. When they reach safety they send for their families so that they may take a safer route. But this isn’t the only explanation.

I think another explanation is that women in some of these countries are treated poorly and a journey such as this is even more perilous for them with the added risk of violence and sexual abuse. This is one of the reasons I don’t think we should have an open-door policy for refugees. Although I acknowledge that sending someone who has made such a journey back from whence they came seems like a heartless thing to do. So I don’t propose a sudden closing of borders but something planned which coincides with better support for refugees in camps. Opening borders to the mostly men who make the dangerous crossing is unfair for the women and children who are left behind sitting in refugee camps for years and years. It also means that fewer places are available for them and fewer resources are sent to these camps because countries in Europe divert their funds to refugees on their own soil.

However I don’t think we should do nothing. We should instead take refugees directly from refugee camps surrounding Syria where there is a more equal number of men and women. We should also provide more support for countries that take on large numbers of refugees, like Lebanon. According to this article it costs about €3,000 to support a refugee in Lebanon for one year compared to €12,000 in Germany.

Of course it’s possible that governments may use this as an excuse to close their borders completely but then not actually do anything. We have to hold them accountable but there is also much we can do as individuals. The refugee crisis will not be solved by taking in the billions of people who live miserable lives in poverty. We need to help these people where they are and it’s very easy for all of us to do so.

Apparently $330 billion is given to charity in the US alone each year and of that, $240 billion comes from individuals. That’s an enormous amount of money. And yet only 35% of donors do any research before giving. We want the charities that take our money to be effective and put our money to good use. Let’s make sure they are effective and donate accordingly. The Life You Can Save website has an impact calculator which will let you measure the cost-effectiveness of your donation.

One of the charities recommended on The Life You Can Save website is One Acre Fund which supports farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi by supplying seeds and fertilisers. This particular charity snagged my interest because they recently branched out into reusable sanitary products for women. It might seem like a small thing but some of these women will forgo food in order to buy disposable sanitary products while others will skip school rather than face the embarrassment of leaks. Providing reusable sanitary products for a girl at school is possibly just as beneficial for her education, if not more, than supplying books.

And now I will share something personal. Almost 9 years ago, after Daniel was born and my washable nappy obsession sprang from the sticky depths of runny baby poo, I began using washable sanitary pads for myself. I know that everyone will think this is gross but it really isn’t. For almost 9 years I have not bought any disposable sanitary pads. Not a single one. What’s more, the washable ones are soft and luxurious. I don’t know how much money I’ve saved. Probably not all that much – £2.50 x 12 x 9 = £250 – but then I’m not a subsistence farmer in Africa and I can afford to eat at any time of the month.

14 Replies to “Refugees and sanitary pads”

  1. Hear hear Rachel. Excellent charity. I agree about targeting the giving too. Too easy simply to give to be one with the biggest budget.

    1. Yes, it’s so strange that people should give so little thought to where they donate their money but if everyone did this then we would have collective effective giving which could be powerful.

  2. Hear, hear is right. It’s important to do your homework first and see not only how your money is being spent but how much of it actually ends up where you expect.

    I have never heard of washable sanitary pads. What a great idea. Why am I not surprised you use therm?

    1. I think we could make a real impact for good if everyone made sure they gave effectively and to charities that have a high impact.

  3. I think I would like to know more about the refugee situation – although it would be almost impossible to survey, I would like to know what proportion is financial necessity of the man arriving alone, and what proportion due to a lower regard for women. Have you heard about this book Doing Good Better: Effective Altruism and a Radical New Way to Make a Difference by William MacAskill? It attempts to address the question of how we can best direct our charitable efforts.
    I have used a moon cup since I was 18. I always keep silent though when I get sent petitions about tax on sanitary products. People just have a distaste for talking about reusable sanitary products, which I don’t have ay patience with. My kids won’t even use Tampax, never mind moon cups.

    1. I’m so impressed you use a moon cup! That’s fantastic. I have never tried one of those but have viewed them with great interest.

      I haven’t heard of that book but Peter Singer has something similar –

      I’ve also watched his TED talk:

  4. I have never heard of reusable sanitary pads…I feel like I must live under a rock! And on the issue of refugees I have always thought that supporting the refugees directly in the camps is a great idea, and if all the immigration issues could be sorted (quickly) there too that would be marvellous (I know, I’m dreaming).

    1. No-one ever mentions reusable sanitary pads and I find that when I mention it to people I know they screw up their faces in disgust so it’s easier just not to say anything at all. But you can buy them from all over the world including the UK – – and they’re often also made my mums who work from home.

      1. After I read your post I looked them up, they are a great idea. They are available here in Aus too, the pictures did look like they were home made 🙂

  5. Refugee crisis is one of the things that moved me last year and I donated a bit to The UN Refugee Agency. That is all I did.

    We used washable nappies for our son. I too think there is nothing gross about using reusable nappies or pads.

    1. It’s hard not to be moved by plight of refugees and want to do something.

      That’s so great that you used washable nappies for your son. I’m pleased to hear it.

  6. A really interesting and thoughtful post. It also alerted me to the existence of reusable sanitary pads. They make more sense than throw-away ones. Good for you!

  7. I have supported Practical Action for years – The main spur for this was the fact that they develop projects in conjunction with the recipients, ensure technology used can be made/ repaired local etc. plus loads of other reasons.

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