Small problem in a bigger picture
The site is about information and links (to different brands). If it helps reduce the hassle in a few people’s lives, great. If it goes toward reducing landfill in Australia, even better. However I also want to alert people to efforts underway to provide alternative sanitary products to women in places where sanitary facilities are much poorer, and where the consequences of this are more serious.
There’s a lot happening in this space (and that’s a good thing). I haven’t updated the information here – but do check out the news page, much of which features new campaigns to improve menstrual hygiene choices for women and girls around the world.
I suggest also checking out The Cup (www.thecup.org) as a great introduction to these issues, and with ways to take action.
No toilets, no bins, not much water
Imagine dealing with your period in a place with no or limited toilet facilities, no rubbish collection, and limited water. Where funds are limited - especially for women and girls. It’s one more issue to deal with and it is, apparently, seriously underestimated. It often means not attending school, humiliation, and sexual exploitation.
The UNDP names menstrual hygiene "A Neglected Condition for the Achievement of Several Millennium Development Goals". Poor menstrual hygiene is unequivicoally linked to educational, employment, health, and overall development outcomes (see a report here). It's a problem in terms of safety, health, finances, and also economic and educational participation. Some programs are working to overcome these barriers by making safe, economical, functional products like menstrual cups available.
Ruby Cup in Kenya
Ruby Cup works in Kenya to make cups available to underprivileged school girls. Partnered with NGOs, for every RubyCup sold on their website one is provided to girls in Kenya who are otherwise likely to miss days of school. The cups also save the girls money, and give them greater freedom.
Days for Girls
Days for Girls is a worldwide program seeking to "Empower girls and women worldwide with more dignity, health and safety through quality sustainable menstrual management. Every woman by 2022". They mainly work to provide 'dignity packs', which can include menstrual cups. It's a worldwide movement with local chapters.
MIT Poverty Action Lab Programs
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Poverty Action Lab have been supplying the MoonCup brand in India and Nepal as part of evaluation programs.
According to reports ("No Menstrual Hygiene For Indian Women Holds Economy Back” – Bloomberg July 25th 2013), parts of India lack adequate plumbing, let alone sanitary disposal units. Around 88% of women in India’s poorer regions “make do with little more than scraps of old cloth”, and “sneak out at night to bury soiled rags in the dirt”.
Women who have been supplied with cups report feeling greater freedom and mobility. One woman said the cup “improved her life and stoked envy from other women”. In Nepal, women and girls said “they were able to bicycle, and that they even forgot they were having their period”. Results from Nepal suggest that the cups can overcome significant barriers, even if they don’t solve bigger problems.
What about closer to home?
Although menstrual cups are much cheaper than disposables after a few months, not all women and girls - even in wealthier countries like Australia - could easily afford the cost of one upfront if they wanted one. Depending on the brand, they might be about $40-60, which can be hard to justify for those on limited incomes, those supporting children, and those in difficult circumstances. Juju for example recently donated to "Packages for the Homeless": "For women and young girls who are living on the streets, managing their menstrual cycles can be quite difficult. Without enough money to buy food, they certainly can’t afford menstrual hygiene products. Not having regular access to toilets, sinks, and laundry facilities only makes the situation worse. JuJu is a convenient, reusable option". Maybe you have additional ideas for enabling less privileged Australian women and girls the choice to access the products of their choice. If so, get in touch.