Women around the world consistently face unique, gender-specific barriers when it comes to staying safe and healthy. Women are at higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia, as well as sexual assault and related complications. Many of these issues are beyond our control, and linked to deep-rooted cultural practices that would take decades to alter.
However, there are some issues that can be addressed, and have surprisingly simple solutions with remarkably impactful outcomes. Menstruation is a huge barrier faced by women around the world, and improper management and hygiene practices often lead to serious health concerns, as well as harmful social practices.
In Kenya, the average cost of a package of sanitary pads is 75KSH — approximately $1 CAD. While this may seem like a minimal amount of money, the average daily income for unskilled labourers is around $1.50 CAD, meaning that purchasing sanitary supplies each month is not financially possible for thousands of women.
Without access to proper sanitary supplies, women and girls will resort to using alternative methods of menstrual management — such as leaves, newspaper, rags, cotton, bits of mattress stuffing, even mud. Not only do these methods not work, but they can lead to serious infections and discomfort. Not to mention how uncomfortable they are to wear during the day.
Providing access to healthy and sustainable menstrual management materials allows women to stay safe, and healthy, and does not sacrifice her ability to participate in work, school or daily activities.
Menstrual cups are made out of surgical grade silicone and are inserted into the vagina to collect, rather than absorb menstrual fluid, and are overall a much healthier option for a woman’s body. Unlike tampons and pads that contain harmful bleaches and chemicals, menstrual cups have no negative side effects on a woman’s body and there is no threat of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
When inserted correctly, the cup sits about half an inch inside the vagina, and creates a vacuum seal to prevent leakage. The cups provide 12 hours of comfortable, leak-free protection, and can be reused for up to 10 years — making it an economically wise and sustainable solution. For women in North America, it makes your period simple and hassle-free. For women in developing countries, it can be a life-changing solution.
Menstrual cups create economic freedom and relieve the financial burden of menstruation. Without having to budget for sanitary pads each month, women are better able to provide for themselves and their families.
Having 12 hours of protection allows women to go about her life without having to worry about locating latrines — a major challenge in many communities. It also allows her to control her body — emptying the cup when she has the time for a shower.
For schoolgirls, having a menstrual cup allows them to attend school — every day of the month. Girls in Kenya will miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of her periods, adding up to around 20 per cent of the school year. Giving a schoolgirl a menstrual cup means she no longer needs to leave school to find a latrine during the day. She is no longer afraid of leaking, and being mocked by her classmates. She can sit comfortably in class and participate in school activities. She no longer needs to skip breakfast to buy pads.
Keeping girls in the classroom allows them to excel academically, and increases their odds of continuing on to post-secondary school, and becoming influential and respected members of society.
Femme International’s Feminine Health Management Program distributes menstrual cups, along with the essential education and hygiene materials to schoolgirls in East Africa, helping them stay safe, health and in school — every day of the month. To donate a menstrual cup, or a Femme Kit, to a girl in need, please visit Femme’s Holiday Giving Campaign.