Art Center’s Illustration Department, along with Designmatters, hosted a studio this spring in collaboration with SHE (Sustainable Health Enterprises), to raise awareness and motivate action addressing the lack of access to affordable, eco-friendly sanitary products for women in developing countries such as Rwanda.
“Menstruation is one of those things that people don’t really want to have anything to do with,” says Elizabeth Scharpf, founder of SHE. “Most of the population is left hanging after donation supplies run out.”
Each year in developing countries, girls and women miss about 50 days of work and school because they lack access to affordable and hygienic sanitary pads. The sanitary pads sold in Rwanda are imported, expensive and subject to a prohibitive 18 percent tax.
According to a United Nations study, females are the economic and social engines of their communities, with one dollar invested in a female offering a much higher return on investment than in a male. As a result, the high rate of women and girls dropping out of school and work just reinforces the poverty and loss of opportunities for entire villages.
SHE challenged a group of Art Center students to create an advertising campaign using traditional and non-traditional media aimed at educating young women in the United States and the rest of the developed world on the critical lack of access to basic sanitary health supplies.
The project presented significant challenges for the students, most notably: How does one tackle a “taboo” issue that no one wants to talk about, even in the U.S.? How can we solve a problem that negatively affects millions of females every year?