Menstrual hygiene becomes an issue due to two main reasons: lack of access to menstrual hygiene products and the silence and secrecy surrounding menstrual periods. Both elements have an equally negative impact on the lives of girls and women but they also feed off each other, creating a vicious circle of fear and embarrassment.
Let’s look at the more practical problem of not having access to menstrual hygiene products. Pads and tampons can be very expensive and many girls and women have to make do with rags, old newspapers, and even dry mud. This is not only dangerous, but also in no way encourages girls and women to feel comfortable and safe enough to attend school or work while on their period.
It is terribly disempowering to see your routine so affected, so limited, for 20% of your life. Many girls end up feeling so discouraged they end up dropping out of school altogether. Most feel their self-confidence and self-esteem drop.
Lack of menstrual hygiene products do effectively decrease the quality of life of a woman and hinder her ability and chances to thrive. (READ: Girls, blood, sex: A hard look at menstruation)
Now, on to the social stigma factor.
Silence around menstruation means that when girls start their periods, the information available, if any, is rather inaccurate, even scary, which makes them feel even more powerless and fearful.
So imagine the situation: you are 12, you just started bleeding and there is some talk about “being a woman now” and “staying away from the boys” and “keeping yourself tidy” but no explanations about why this is happening.
You may perceive it is somehow related to sex but you are not sure how or why. The more secrecy and behind-the-hand whispers about periods, the less confident you feel with your not-leak-proof do-it-yourself rag or pad pinned to your knickers.
Would you feel like going to school? And risk bleeding in public? And maybe getting teased by the boys?
No way. And neither would we.
At Ruby Cup, we provide menstrual cups, which are reusable cups made of 100% medical grade silicone that are worn internally and last for 10 years.
When a 13-year-old girl receives a Ruby Cup, she can finish primary school and go through secondary school and college without worrying about where the next batch of pads will come from.
Menstrual cups also eliminate the waste of the 11,000 pads or tampons a woman will use in her lifetime.
Yes, it’s expensive being a woman.
Help break taboos
It is is equally important to tackle the taboos and shame surrounding periods.
It seems that it’s the correlation between periods and sexual maturity that makes the whole subject embarrassing, the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to discuss with your dad, which is a problem if he’s the one you have to ask for money when you need a new pack of pads.
As much as it’s understandable that parents and teachers may feel shy when talking about periods and sex with their children and pupils, it is essential that they do. This ummm-ing and aaaah-ing around the subject needs to end.
Young girls deserve reassurance that this “sudden bleeding” does not mean they are ill or dirty. It is a completely natural and healthy process their bodies are going through and they should have access to a number of options to manage it with privacy and dignity.
And yes, menstrual hygiene for boys is becoming more and more relevant too.
We help break taboos by collaborating with fantastic organizations, such as Putali Project in Nepal. Putali doesn’t only distribute Ruby Cups but they also educate on menstrual hygiene and promote Menstrupedia, a comic book that aims to break the silence about periods by providing accurate and accessible information.
Do you want to help?
Talk about menstrual hygiene to your family and friends. Don’t be shy to share articles on Twitter or Facebook. Both men and women can help with this. Maybe you are not menstruating anymore but your granddaughter would appreciate your advice. Maybe your niece is having a hard time, why not encourage her parents to talk to her about how her body is changing?
If you want to try a menstrual cup or maybe get one for your sister, mother or cousin, why not purchase a Ruby Cup online? For every cup sold online, we will donate another one to a school girl in Eastern Africa.
On May 28, we celebrated the second International Menstrual Hygiene Day, with over 125 events in 33 countries. We saw and used #MenstruationMatters on Twitter and Instagram; there were articles, blog posts, and campaigns demanding that the stigma and shame around menstruation ends now.
Let’s make sure that menstruation doesn’t stop girls and women from feeling confident, safe and comfortable every day of the month. – Rappler.com
Amaia Arranz is Ruby Cup’s Chief Operating Officer in Eastern Africa.
Ruby Cup is a social business founded in 2011 and based in Berlin and Kenya. It produces and sells the menstrual cups made from 100% medical grade silicone. Menstrual cups are a healthy, eco-friendly, and cost saving alternative to tampons and pads. To learn more, you may visit Ruby Cup’s website here.
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