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. 

What if not having sanitary supplies meant DAYS without school, DAYS without income, DAYS without leaving the house? Girls use leaves, mattress stuffing, newspaper, corn husks, rocks, anything they can find...but still miss up to 2 months of school every year. Worse, girls are often exploited in exchange for hygiene. It turns out this issue is a surprising but instrumental key to social change for women all over the world. The poverty cycle can be broken when girls stay in school.
— Days for Girls

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. 

Development Priority 

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.  

“I’ve always struggled to understand why there is such little attention on this issue that impacts dignity, education, health and women’s involvement in the workplace”
— Virginia Roaf, an adviser to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation.
 

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. 

With one Ruby Cup, a girl can all the way from primary school through university without having to worry about her period again. With an office in Nairobi, the three Danish female founders Julie, Maxie, and Veronica, have won several awards for their work on the ground. Ruby Cup is sold online to western markets, and when you purchase a Ruby Cup, you give one to a school girl in poverty.
— RubyCup in Kenya
Letter about RubyCup from Elizabeth, a school girl from Kenya. Read more here.   

Letter about RubyCup from Elizabeth, a school girl from Kenya. Read more here.   

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. 

Juju and Days for Girls

Australian brand JuJu donated 1000 cups to Days for Girls in 2012. These have been distributed in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda.  

These women face days of anxiety, days of isolation, men telling them they “belong at home” because they stink during their days (it’s hard not to when you have one rag or a piece of cardboard for the month) and then your comfortable, quality, safe, don’t have to change them often, no fuss cups come into their lives and they walk with their heads high and a new bounce in their step. It’s hard to describe how HUGE this is for them, but their smiles speak volumes when they receive one. And when they come back with a line of friends in tow… well, you know how important it is.
— Celeste - re: Juju and Days for Girls
 

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.