Menstrual cup distribution - health education story from Kenya
Kenya: Menstrual cup distribution and health education program
Provision of students from 14 schools across the Kenya with menstrual cups and the menstrual health information necessary to manage their periods with care and confidence. The menstrual cup is an affordable and sustainable solution for girls to manage their menstruation
The project and the experiences:
Many girls are missing classes for fear of leaking, and absenting from school or hiding at home out of shame. For girls living in Kisumu, Kenya, this situation was a reality each and every month; students were missing classes and/or were using alternative sanitary solutions. Student Annet spoke of her first period “I felt ashamed of myself and stayed at home for a week because I thought it was not normal”. Her classmate Valentine asked friends and family to buy sanitary products “…I was asking my boyfriends, sometimes I was asking my mother and when my mother didn’t have any money I usually used rags and stayed at home.”
For students in Kisumu, things have begun to change and girls now have the opportunity to stay in school, achieve their potential and manage menstruation safely. In 2012, social business Ruby Cup formed a partnership with Golden Girls Foundation (GGF), a Kisumu-based organisation that empowers women and girls in their community. Together they provide students of 14 schools across the country with menstrual cups and the menstrual health information necessary to manage their periods with care and confidence. Menstrual cups are a sustainable hygiene product that can be worn for up to 12 hours. They offer girls menstrual security and confidence, whilst also freeing them from a monthly financial burden.
Social business Ruby Cup produces and sells menstrual cups as a sustainable menstrual hygiene solution for women worldwide. Ruby Cup operates a ‘Buy One Give One’ social concept, which means that global menstrual cup sales can cross-subsidize the cost of menstrual cups in developing countries. Online and in-store sales generate donations, which allow cups to be distributed. Ruby Cup operates mainly in Kenya through its strategic partners, GGF and Femme International, but also engages with projects in other countries in East Africa and recently Nepal.
The results have been positive. Girls using the cups prefer them to pads and some spoke to us about their positive experience with the menstrual cup; “Before I started using the menstrual cup I was using rags, sometimes I was using pads and I usually stayed at home until my menstruation stopped because I became shy. Now I can do anything… now no-one knows if I am menstruating” commented Valentine, and classmate Annet now feels the same sense of confidence while on her period. The comfort and reliability that a menstrual cup provides, has allowed girls the freedom to manage menstruation without worry.
Distribution of cups is coordinated alongside educational sessions to ensure that girls are equipped with the knowledge and understanding to use cups and manage menstruation.
During the workshops and informative sessions about basic anatomy, hygiene and menstrual health, the usage of the menstrual cup is thoroughly explained.
Ruby Cups are only distributed in locations where there is a reliable source of water on site, so that cups can be used and washed in appropriate facilities. Menstrual cups are a water-efficient alternative to cloth and other materials that are currently widely used. Cloth rags need daily soaking whereas cups need only to be rinsed daily and boiled once a month. Menstrual cups can be reused for up to 10 years, reducing daily and monthly waste significantly. The longevity of the product eliminates the issue of regular waste disposal, which negatively impacts the environment and can present a health risk where waste management systems are not in place.
Through local partnerships, Ruby Cup can continue to build on local knowledge, ensuring that programs are culturally and socially appropriate and well communicated. Engaging with students, teachers and parents means that mentorship can spread throughout the community; product knowledge and menstrual health information can be shared. Working closely with GGF and Femme International has allowed for review of product use and evaluation of long-term impact. To date, Ruby Cup has distributed around 4,500 cups – through partnerships and co-operations with NGOs and organisations such as Golden Girls Foundation. There are plans to continue expanding the Ruby Cup partner-base in following years, and an aim to distribute 10,000 cups by the end of 2015.
The key lessons of the story:
The menstrual cup is an affordable and sustainable solution for girls to manage their menstruation
Health and Hygiene: Each distribution programme is coordinated alongside menstrual health education sessions. At each school, a female mentor is trained to be on-hand to give health advice and support to girls.
Environment and natural resources: menstrual cups are reusable for up to 10 years, and replace disposable menstrual hygiene products that have a negative impact on the environment.
Technology and operation: menstrual cups are very easy to use, provide comfort and reliability. They last for up to 10 years.
Financial and economic issues: Ruby Cup operate under a ‘Buy One Give One’ social concept – sales from online shop and European stores fund menstrual cup donations.
Socio-cultural and institutional aspects: Ruby Cup works in partnership with organisations that are established on the ground and that work to empower women within the community.
Type of project: Menstrual cup distribution and health education program
Project period: 2012, ongoing
Start of operation: 2012
Project scale: 4,500 menstrual cups distributed to date
Ruby Cup is a social business based in Berlin and Nairobi that partners with local organisations, to provide a healthy, long lasting menstrual hygiene product to girls at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Menstrual cups are distributed alongside menstrual health education sessions in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and Nepal. Ruby Cup has secured financial support from SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency), international investors as well as global prizes for innovation and the sustainable technology of the product.
Golden Girls Foundation was registered in 2011 as a nonpolitical, nonprofit organization under the laws of the republic of Kenya. The organization aims at empowering the girl child and women towards creating a socio economically stable society.
Maxie Matthiessen and Julie Weigaard Kjaer
Golden Girls Foundation