In 2010, Sophia and Paul Grinvalds founded the organization AFRIpads in Kampala, Uganda, to provide reusable cloth pads to menstruating women and girls throughout the country. At that time, the Grinvalds wanted to help implement better menstrual health and hygiene in Uganda to encourage women and girls to engage in work and school. While living in Kampala, in 2010, they employed Ugandan women to sew cloth pads daily and sell to others living in the local village. In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, conducted a study in Uganda to test the efficiency of AFRIpads and found that a majority of women and girls studied favored reusable cloth pads. Since then, as of 2021, AFRIpads has expanded to collaborate with other organizations to distribute their reusable cloth pads to women and girls living in African countries. By doing so, AFRIpads has helped introduce a sustainable method for managing menstrual hygiene and teaching menstrual education in low-income countries.
In “Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use,” hereafter “Explaining Recent Declines,” researchers John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh discuss what led to the major decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates from 1995 to 2002. Working with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, they found that the decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates between 1995 and 2002 was primarily due to improved contraceptive use. They published their article in 2007 after the US government had increased funding for abstinence-only education between 1998 and 2007. “Explaining Recent Declines” challenged US policies by asserting that there was minimal evidence to support abstinence-only sex education as the primary strategy to prevent adolescent pregnancy.
On 29 June 1988, in Bowen v. Kendrick, the US Supreme Court ruled in a five-to-four decision that the 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, was constitutional. Under AFLA, the US government could distribute federal funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs, oftentimes given to groups with religious affiliations. As a federal taxpayer, Chan Kendrick challenged the constitutionality of AFLA, claiming it violated the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court found that although AFLA funded programs that aligned with certain religious ideologies, it was constitutional because it did not encourage government involvement in religion, and it held a valid secular purpose in seeking to prevent adolescent pregnancy and premarital sexual relations. By upholding AFLA, Bowen v. Kendrick enabled the US government to continue funding abstinence-only education, which researchers have found to be ineffective.
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services. During the early 1900s, Dennett distributed a pamphlet she wrote on sex education called, The Sex Side of Life, through the post, which triggered a series of legal challenges that contributed to the dismantling of the Comstock Act. Dennett was an advocate for sex education and contraceptives, and her actions helped increase women's access to information about reproductive health.
In 1902, editors of the medical journal Alkaloidal Clinic Wallace C. Abbott and William Francis Waugh published Sexual Hygiene, a book about normal sexual physiology and behavior in Chicago, Illinois. Though the book includes a collection of passages from other books, articles, speeches, and documents surrounding sexual physiology and behavior, it does not include text regarding sexual hygiene. Rather, the book contains a preface and twenty-eight chapters on topics including masturbation, incomplete or delayed intercourse, and impotence, meaning the inability for a female to achieve an orgasm or a male to achieve an erection. Though physicians and those who served as experts in the book used seemingly factual scientific evidence to back up their claims, later scientific understanding of male and female physiology disproved many of those assertions. Sexual Hygiene is an early US discussion of sex by medical authorities that provides examples of historical medical misconceptions about sexual practices, physiology, gender roles, and context for understanding reproductive medicine during the early 1900s.
In the 1930 US federal court case United States v. Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware Dennett was cleared of all charges of violating the anti-obscenity Comstock Act, a charge she had incurred by distributing her sex education pamphlet called The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People. The United States Postal Service charged Dennett under the Comstock Act, which prohibited the distribution of sex-related materials through the mail. The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, New York, ruled that material needed to be considered in context and could not be considered obscene if it was not intended to sexually arouse an individual. The court's ruling in the appeals case of United States v. Dennett questioned the merits of the Hicklin test, used by courts to determine whether an item had an obscene component or intent, and contributed to the dissolution of the Comstock Act, thus legalizing access to materials about contraception and reproductive health.
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett, a supporter of sex education for children in the US in the early twentieth century, wrote The Sex Education of Children: A Book for Parents as a resource for parents teaching their children about sex. Vanguard Press in New York City, New York, published The Sex Education of Children in 1931. Dennett’s book addresses issues that Dennett argued parents should know about sex to provide their children with an accurate portrayal of the topic. In addition to expressing Dennett’s views on sex education, The Sex Education of Children was one of the few works during the early 1900s in the US to advocate for increased communication with children about reproductive health.
What Every Mother Should Know was published in 1914 in New York City, New York, as a compilation of newspaper articles written by Margaret Sanger in 1911. The series of articles informed parents about how to teach their children about reproduction and it appeared in the newspaper New York Call. In 1911, the newspaper series was published as a book, with several subsequent editions appearing later. In What Every Mother Should Know, Sanger emphasizes starting education on reproduction early and honestly answering children’s questions. The book acted as a resource for parents and urged readers to be less fearful of approaching the topic with their children. What Every Mother Should Know provided information to the public about sex education and reproductive health, which was scarce during the early twentieth century.
In the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Blackwell was a women’s healthcare reformer and the first woman to receive her medical degree in the United States. She practiced medicine as a primary care physician in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Blackwell graduated medical school from Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York, where she was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the US. Throughout her career, Blackwell focused on her patients’ rights to access healthcare and education pertaining to healthcare, particularly the rights of women and children, whom she treated in a hospital she cofounded. Blackwell influenced the medical care during the Civil War in the United States by training nurses to treat soldiers injured in battle. In her lifetime, Blackwell educated women on their health and careers as healthcare providers, and as the first woman to receive a medical degree, made it easier for other women to become physicians in the United States.
Menstrupedia published the comic book Menstrupedia Comic: The Friendly Guide to Periods for Girls, hereafter Menstrupedia Comic, in July 2014 in India. Aditi Gupta, the founder of Menstrupedia and a women’s health activist, wrote Menstrupedia Comic while studying at the National Institute of Design in Gujarat, India, in 2013. Gupta worked alongside her husband, graphic designer Tuhin Paul, who provided the illustrations for the book. According to Menstrupedia, misconceptions and taboo surrounding menstruation in India prompted Gupta to develop the book. Specifically, in Hindu culture, women and girls may feel embarrassed to discuss their menstrual cycles openly, because menstruation is a process that some people consider impure. Published in eleven different languages, Menstrupedia Comic has become an educational resource for girls around the world to learn about their menstrual cycles.