Giving is an art that many people haven’t mastered. I am not saying I know better, just that over the years, by interacting with various charities and organizing donations, I have realized how wrong my initial approach was. Whether you are participating in pad drives, visiting children’s homes, or whatever else you do to give back, it is crucial to remember that there are people at the other end.
It is easy to get caught up in the generosity of your actions, to be consumed by the idea of doing good. If you forget that there are people on the receiving end, it becomes about you. Yes, you are doing a good thing, but is your approach ideal for those you are giving to?
There was a conversation on Twitter where people who had resided in children’s homes expressed the disorientation that comes with visits from donors, especially small-scale ones. Most of us who plan to visit these homes almost always want to see the children, interact with them, and take photos with them.
We don’t know, or at least something we don’t actively think about that while these visits are a way for us to do good, they might cause more harm. By interacting with the children, spending time with them, bonding with them, we interrupt their days. They form bonds that are too temporary to be good for anyone, and this form of disorientation is not suitable for anyone. The same applies to other forms of giving, including pad drives, albeit in a different way.
Media reports and social media posts highlight the lack of sanitary products for menstruators, and the first instinct we have is to give towards the course. While this is noble and highly appreciated, giving in these situations needs to be guided by structure to ensure efficiency.
Factors to Consider for Pad Drives
Organizing a pad drive is a complex process, and it requires a lot of intentionality. Although these menstruators will take whatever form of help they can get, the kind of help you offer should be accompanied by humanity.
This giving should be structured around the fact that conversations on periods are considered taboo in many settings. Additionally, with the high prevalence of narratives that contribute to period shame, your attempt to end period poverty should consider each menstruators relationship with the topic.
Some of the things to keep in mind when it comes to pad drives include;
Are the people you are giving to in line with your idea of a pad drive? If you plan to give to a school, you need to ensure that the school administration agrees with your approach to the drive. Also, most importantly, are the students comfortable with it?
Often, we have seen photos of young menstruators holding pads and panties standing in line for a photo. These photos cringe-worthy, especially if they are accompanied by an obnoxious image of the donor on the products. It is cruel to parade people and announce their lack to the world in the name of creating awareness of the course, worse still, for recognition.
In such moments, as I have come to realize, these menstruators don’t have a choice. In their immense gratitude to the donors, the school administration is inclined to accept whatever request you have. The absurdity of parading someone with a pad for social proof of your acts of charity is vile and inhumane.
As someone who has made that mistake before, the best way to do better is to intentionally not put people in such awkward positions.
If you need to show others that you are giving, which is often crucial when you want to create awareness to raise more funds or get more people to contribute, you should consider excluding student’s faces from the images.
Conversations on periods are already hard enough, and although we are making significant progress in creating safe spaces and eliminating the stigma, there’s still a long way to go. While you may be comfortable to shout your heart out about menstruation, these pad drives aren’t about you. Some people still grapple with period shame.
Thus, ensure you have consent from all involved parties.
2. Contact person
Likely, you are a stranger in the places you are planning to have your pad drive. Talking about periods can be difficult, worse still with a stranger. Ensure that you find a contact person to facilitate the entire process.
The person you choose will be determined by where you are giving, to who, and how you identified the need. You can either use the people who brought the issue to your attention or ask them to recommend someone. These people have a deeper understanding of the situation and are familiar.
Running successful pad drives involves acknowledging that your generosity can be interpreted as an intrusion. As such, you should try as much as possible to reduce the idea of an invasion of people’s spaces.
It is crucial to find a teacher, counselor, or matron that the students are comfortable with when donating to schools. Unfortunately, the way Kenyan schools are set up, some educators perpetuate period shame. If you use such a person, menstruators will have to jump through hoops of contempt to get the pads. They also face the risk of constant future reminders of their lack, and that can be awful.
When it comes to community pad drives, it is best to look through the community to find groups participating in such charities. You can then join them and assume that you are facilitating their work, rather than taking over or over-looking them.
Often, community-based groups have a better understanding of the need, and they have systems in place that ensure proper distribution of the available resources. It would be counter-productive to give people who had already received sanitary products.
Would you use the pads you give in pad drives? No, really?
Yes, non-menstruators are also involved in such courses, but I assume that they include menstruators in such giving.
It is crucial to remember that although menstruators who lack proper sanitary products will take whatever you give, you need to be intentional in the relief you offer. Charity doesn’t translate to inferior quality products.
Keep in mind that your needs are mostly similar to those of others. Thus, when giving, assume you are the receiver; if someone gave you those pads, would you use them? Are they comfortable? Pad drives should consider comfort, health, and the well-being of the menstruators you wish to assist.
The education system lacks comprehensive resources to cover conversations on reproductive health and menstrual hygiene. The community lacks the freedom to have open and candid discussions on the same. Most people lack the economic or social resources to provide menstruators with all sanitary products required to make periods more comfortable.
These are some of the things you should keep in mind when planning pad drives. Which problem are you looking to solve? How much can you do? Can you include more products such as soaps, bathing towels, tissues, and panties? Can you have a comprehensive period talk?
Giving is an art that many people have not mastered, but there are endless opportunities to learn, whether through research, other people, or experience. So, keep giving and be intentional about doing it right.