SEATTLE — In many developing countries, menstruation oppresses, shames and isolates women as a result of improper education and dangerous hygiene practices, which often also lead to serious health concerns.
These shaming and dangerous practices occur worldwide. In India, menstruating women are not allowed to touch sacred cows. In rural Venezuela, menstruating women are forced to sleep in special huts for the duration of her period. In rural Ghana, menstruating women are forbidden from enter a dwelling with a man or cook him food. In remote areas of Nepal, menstruating women are not allowed to interact with anyone; she is banished to an isolated clay hut in the wilderness until her period is over.
In many Southeast Asian communities, girls are not permitted to use the same water facilities as the rest of the community for fear of contamination. In Kenya, women in the semi-nomadic Masai region are not allowed to enter goat pens or milk cows while they menstruate for fear that they will contaminate the animal. They’re also not allowed to consume animal products.
In addition, various studies and research have identified that menstruation is the number one reason why girls miss school. For example, girls in rural Kenya miss an average of five days of school each month because of their periods. With the lack of sanitary resources and essential education, menstruation continues to be an oppressive barrier for women who want to reach their full potential.
However, one organization is committed to tackling this global issue by making women’s empowerment a top priority.
Femme International believes that the achievement of gender equality is directly linked to the attainment of adequate feminine hygiene. Femme International is one of the only NGOs dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene education. It’s also the only organization promoting menstrual cups as a sustainable solution.
In Kenya, the cheapest package of sanitary pads costs 65KSH, which is comparable to the average daily wage of most unskilled workers. This means that a monthly purchase of these pads is not financially possible for thousands of women. As a result, women many times have to manage their menstruation with rags and newspaper, sometimes even resorting to leaves and mud. Not only are these methods ineffective and uncomfortable, they can also lead to serious infections and diseases. This is why access to healthy and sustainable menstrual management materials is critical.
Femme International answers to this serious issue with a simple solution – menstrual cups.
These cups are made of surgical grade silicone and are inserted into the vagina to collect rather than absorb menstrual fluid. When inserted correctly, cups sit about half an inch inside the vagina and create a vacuum seal around the top. They’re comfortable, anti-microbial, leak-free protected and last for up to 12 hours. What’s more is that they can also be reused for up to 10 years.
Menstrual cups provide an economically sound and sustainable solution that has proven to be a life-changing tool for women in rural areas who don’t have access.
Menstrual cups are central to Femme International’s mission to address the health and safety needs of women in developing communities. However, they’re also only part of the package known as Femme Kits that include a tin bowl for washing the cup, a small towel, a bar of soap in a protective container and a handheld mirror – everything a girl needs to manage her period.
In addition, girls who receive these kits will also complete a series of workshops on topics ranging from puberty to essential hygiene to menstruation to get the necessary education on health and safety. Femme International teaches that effective menstrual management helps increase rates of school attendance among girls, lowers instances of reproductive infection and disease, and reduces engagement in prostitution.
With their need to make this information accessible, thousands of girls and women will be empowered to take control of their own bodies no matter the time of the month.
– Chelsee Yee