One Simple Kit

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

Last week, I texted a friend of mine and told her: I have a hard choice before me. When she asked what that was, I smiled as I replied: I must choose between replenishing the MAC mascara that I just ran out of and buying the new Harry Potter book. We both laughed. But really, even as a single mom who falls beneath the poverty level, this was my choice of the day.

I have known hard times. I have lived in my car with my two dogs and I have had to volunteer my time cleaning my son’s school to ensure that he gets an education because I couldn’t afford the monthly tuition. I have taken hits by the ones I love, both physical and metaphorical, and I have had my innocence stolen from me by a boy I hardly knew.


One simple kit is combating poverty, hunger, and gender inequality.


Yet somewhere across a sea, a young girl sits in her room, blood gushing from her for reasons unbeknownst to her. Fear brings tears to her eyes as she struggles to understand why God has cursed her. That is what her mother has taught her. That if such a thing occurs, it is a curse from her creator for being a filthy creature. A girl her age tells her that she has contracted a disease, something she couldn’t remember the three letters to reference, but she knew was deadly.

In a rural region in southern Malawi, a girl who has had her first period may be expected to undergo a “sexual cleansing” ritual, in which she is made to have unprotected sex with a man called a hyena — a risky proposition in a country in which nearly 1 in 10 adults has HIV. Her choice to deny such an offer could result in her entire family being stricken ill or even dead — at least that is what she is told. Continue reading

Teen Talk: The Truth About Tampons

tamponsIf you had told the 13-year-old version of me that someday, I’d be writing about tampons on a blog, my first reaction would be, “Eww, gross!” But here I am, writing about tampons. Life can take you in unexpected directions.

When I was growing up, tampons had a mixed reputation. There were those people who thought that tampons would somehow make you lose your virginity. Then there were fears about infections, or the chemicals that were used.


In a school or in a pool, tampons are safe and pretty cool.


Me, I was just worried they’d hurt, and I never wanted to use them. My refusal to use a tampon meant that I couldn’t go swimming in gym class — and everyone knew that I was on my period. There I was, sitting in the bleachers as everyone else was splashing around. I knew I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to wear a tampon — during lunchtime, a few of us quietly talked about our fears, but none of those other girls joined me on the sidelines. I think they were more concerned about their classmates knowing their business. During our six-week swimming unit, only a few girls sat out their periods in the bleachers.

Tampons weren’t the right choice for me at that time, but for other girls, they were convenient and comfortable. If you’re curious about tampons but have some concerns, it might be worth looking into them so you can make an informed decision. I’m glad we have so many options to deal with our periods — my mom would tell me about these crazy belts with buckles or pins that they’d have to put up with every month. But you have a ton of things to choose from when finding the products that work best for you. Continue reading

Is Douching Safe?

This vintage douche ad claims that its product is “safe to delicate tissues” and “non-poisonous.”

Douching is the practice of squirting a liquid, called a douche, into the vagina. Many people believe it helps keep the vagina clean and odor-free, and some are under the impression that it helps prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. An estimated 25 percent of American women 15 to 44 years old douche regularly. But just because douching is widespread doesn’t mean it’s safe; indeed, there are two possible mechanisms by which douching might be harmful.

First, douching might alter the pH of the vagina, changing its ecosystem. You might not think of a vagina as an “ecosystem,” but the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that live there sure do — and altering their habitat can harm the beneficial microbes that live there, opening the door for disease-causing microbes to take over the territory. Frequent douching can result in the vagina’s normal microbial population having difficulty reestablishing its population.


Douching increases risk for infections and fertility problems, and has no proven medical benefits.


Second, a douche’s upward flow might give pathogens a “free ride” into the depths of the reproductive tract, granting them access to areas that might have been difficult for them to reach otherwise. In this manner, an infection might spread from the lower reproductive tract to the upper reproductive tract. Douching might be an even bigger risk for female adolescents, whose reproductive anatomy is not fully formed, leaving them more vulnerable to pathogens.

While douching is not guaranteed to harm you, there is no evidence that it is beneficial in any way. Establishing causation between douching and the problems that are associated with it is trickier — does douching cause these problems, or do people who douche also tend to engage in other behaviors that increase risk? So far, the best evidence indicates that douching is correlated with a number of diseases and other problems, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), bacterial vaginosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fertility and pregnancy complications, and more. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • ribbonsThe imbeciles in the state of Kentucky are trying to say that a ban on gay marriage isn’t discriminatory because it bars both gay and straight people from same-sex unions. To me, this is akin to saying you’re going to ban breastfeeding in public places, but you’re going to ban both men and women from breastfeeding, and thus, it’s not discrimination against women! See, magical thinking! No logic necessary!! (ABC News)
  • Arizona Republicans are such big fans of lying that they’ve passed a law that requires doctors to lie to women about abortions being reversible. (The Guardian)
  • Tampons may one day help detect endometrial cancer. (Smithsonian Mag)
  • Why settle for No. 3 when you can strive for No. 1? Apparently, Texas isn’t satisfied having *only* the third highest HIV infection rate in the country, so they’ve cut funding for HIV screenings in favor of abstinence education. Makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it? #CompassionateConservatism (RH Reality Check)
  • Looks like the fate of Texas will soon be very similar to that of Scott County, Indiana. Planned Parenthood was the county’s sole provider of HIV testing, but the state cut funding and several clinics were forced to close. They’re now suffering an HIV outbreak that its governor has called “an epidemic.” (HuffPo)
  • Speaking of Indiana, their ”religious freedom” bill caused a huge ruckus this week. But instead of just repealing the stupid thing, they’ve “revised it” to ban businesses from denying services to people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (IndyStar)
  • Wow, so Indiana just keeps on delivering the worst of the worst, don’t they? Purvi Patel has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and “neglect of a dependent” for having a miscarriage that may have been caused by an abortion pill. She’s not the first woman to face such charges, and these predatory, intrusive laws pretty much guarantee she won’t be the last. (MSNBC)
  • We often hear about what miscarriages cost women emotionally, but what about the financial cost? It’s pretty steep. One woman’s miscarriage cost her tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. (Slate)
  • Maryland has opened an abortion clinic that’s being compared to a “spa.” Naturally, women being able to receive kindness and comfort while undergoing a completely legal medical procedure has some people outraged. (WaPo)
  • The Navajo Nation is being referred to as a “condom desert.” (Al Jazeera America)
  • Hard to express how heartbreaking a read this last piece is — women in abusive relationships suffer in ways many people just can’t fully grasp. They are more likely to contract HIV and less likely to use birth control. And when they do use birth control, it often has to be done via “secret” methods. (Jezebel)