Period Poverty

Scotland has become the first country in the world to offer tampons and pads for free, for anyone, more accurately for anyone who needs them. Seen on a global scale it’s bigger news than it may at first appear.  That is because of what GZERO Media calls period poverty, the lack of being able to afford feminine hygiene products like tampons, pads or even soap. It’s a problem in any number of countries,  where so often girls are not able to go to school when they  are having their periods, and sometimes buying food takes precedence over buying feminine hygiene products. That means that women and girls have to find unhygienic substitutes. In India for example,  poor women and girls use dirty rags, leaves, newspaper, sand and even ashes, anything to absorb the menstrual blood. The lack of sanitation often causes infections and 70% of reproductive diseases in India stem from poor menstrual hygiene. The problem of cost is compounded by people in governments, usually men, who hold on to taboos about women’s periods. In several societies menstruating women are considered unclean, making it difficult for them to even dry their rags openly in the sun, which would be a disinfectant. Even in the US, the UK and Australia,  laws haven’t been able to pass partly because feminine hygiene products are considered non-essentials. Of course that is not only erroneous, it overlooks the fact these products are not cheap.  All of this highlight Scotland as indeed a pioneer. New Zealand  and Kenya offer free products but only in public schools. So hail Scotland for making these products free on a national scale. May they be an example to many others.

Friendships and Wellbeing

There’s been a lot written about friendship recently, mainly because of a study showing how poor children having friends who are wealthier than they are makes a huge difference in their future. They are exposed to ideas, to ways of life, to contacts, to opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise. They are therefore more likely to pursue an education and be more successful. It makes so much sense and  in retrospect we have all experienced, witnessed or observed,  what the researchers discovered. Still it was both surprising and reassuring. Perhaps it’s related to a developing trend  which is just as surprising and which didn’t receive as much coverage,  it is one finding that friendships are fundamentally more important to our overall wellbeing,  that what we call relationships, those that are more romantic and lead to a more traditional form of intimacy. When I was in my 20’s we used to say relationships come and go but friendships remain. It was a thought trying to console ourselves after a breakup with someone we thought would be our significant other. It turns out that more and more people are not only discovering but using the notion that friendships are more important than other relationships. Whether  people are in a committed relationship   or not, their friends nurture them and give them something unique.  That is because friendships give us something no other relationship can give us including inner strength and a sense of fulfillment. This is becoming increasingly evident as blogs, organizations, and websites emphasize the enduring benefits of friendship–Including it seems longevity.

Fighting Food Waste With Apps

931 million tons of food are wasted every year. That’s  what the UN Environment Program  estimates. Of course in view of world hunger that figure may have moral and ethical implications. But it also has environmental ones, because that amount of waste represents about 8 to 10% of global carbon emissions. 800 million people go to bed hungry each night while a third of the world’s food is wasted. Food waste costs the world about a trillion dollar a year, and that’s why several governments are introducing policies to tackle it.  Doing something about food waste is on the agenda of  several countries, of policy makers, organizations, activists. And now as part of these efforts there are smart phones apps which facilitate sharing, and giving food so that it does not go to waste. These apps are meant to help shoppers, food manufacturers, grocery stores and restaurants cut their food waste. In the process they can help many.  They exist in several countries, and it seems the US is lagging behind.

Olio is an app began by two young mothers, one brought up on a British farm, the other in Iowa. The app is simple to use. The user posts a picture of what is to be given away, and selects  what geographical areas  it is to be posted in and how it is to be picked up. When someone responds, their profile can help sort out who they are so that the giver can make a choice if necessary. Other apps are Tekeya in Egypt where stores and  manufacturers sell at half price what they would throw away , which benefits both them and the consumer. Too Good To Go is another British app where people buy at great discounts a kind of mystery bag from restaurants and stores and are in for a surprise as to what the bags contain.

How often have I wished for an app like Olio. Maybe you have too.

Elizabeth The Human Being

Now that the festivities of the Jubilee are over and the excitement abated  one can stop and look at the life of Elizabeth  II in plainer terms without the context of  her belonging to a royal family. She was and is irretrievably a human being and because I believe that our lives are meant to accomplish something or in some small way however slight advance the cause of humanity, I want to acknowledge  her, not as a queen, but as a person. To someone like me, and I hope to others, If there is a thread to her life it is not that she was a monarch, but that she placed duty first, in her case that duty leading her to a life of service to  country and to those who are called her subjects. Among us rare is the person who is called upon to place duty and service first, much less on a consistent basis. And if we  are as were Nelson Mandela  or Martin Luther King,  our lives become what can be called sacrificial. I don’t think of the life of Elizabeth II as a sacrificial life, but it has been a dedicated life, she dedicated her life to a cause greater than herself. In that her example can be useful because many of us can  or could be inspired by   that kind of  accomplishment. Many in both the US and the UK see her through the lens of the monarchy, but if one takes away the crown and look at the person, personal achievement emerges.  Here is someone who faced  disappointments, her uncle’s, the Duke of Windsor, abdication, which made her queen in waiting, compromise, those she had to make in order to have a marriage that was decades long, compassion, in dealing with a troubled sister, mother’s love in having to handle the issues faced by several of her children. And all of this under the public glare of living in  what really is a gilded cage, nor does it include the challenges of what she called her job, dealing with the likes of Winston Churchill when still a young head of state,  or later on with Margaret Thatcher, something that for just about any of us would be bound to be intimidating. Many step up to the plate when challenges come, many grow as a result, in that she did not do  anything the rest of us can’t do, already do or ought to do. And that’s one reason she is an example: her life reminds us it is possible.