Some Divisions Exist

A few divisions did emerge at various points during the symposium, more often in small group and one-on-one discussions, and occasionally in breakout sessions, rather than in front of the full group of attendees.

Many of these kinds of disagreements also tend to hard to include in a formal conference report. They may likely to get ignored until they reappear at the next gathering. Keeping them on the radar screen seems like a useful.

  • Product vs. education (/stigma/taboo) focus, when resources and attention are limited
  • The pros and cons of disposable versus reusable products
  • Big producers vs. small producers (occasional economies of scale vs. localized expertise debates)
  • For-profit entrepreneurs vs. non-profit organizations (sometimes around the risk of advertising, which sometimes moves towards a disposables vs. reusables debate, since relatively few for-profit entrepreneurs sell reusable pads.)
  • Local product production vs. outsourcing to Asia (sometimes presented as a local jobs vs. lower cost and/or higher quality to menstruators)
  • The product effectiveness and cost of biodegradable/compostable disposable products vs. standard disposable products.
  • The promise for menstrual cups in some cultures, and the amount of training needed to facilitate their successful adoption
  • If organic (/natural) content in products is critical for the health of women (and whether or not research findings support claims to that effect.)
  • The efficiency of standardizing educational content vs. the costs of creating new educational content for every individual cultural context.
  • How to coalesce around this issue as “Africa” for enhanced attention to it, without glossing over often major differences between the cultures faced by menstruators and the organizations that support them (i.e., between countries, and within countries based on ethnic divisions, rural vs. urban lifestyles, income levels, etc.)

It was actually during the relatively infrequent debates and/or disagreements where the greatest learning – if not answers, per se – tended to emerge. 

To be clear, there are no easy answers to any of these questions. But that also means that they are going to remain a part of the dialogue, especially as more work occurs through alliances, where such waters have to be navigated.