MENSTRUAL CUP PROJECTIntroducing Menstrual Cups to the Women of a Nation
What Are Menstrual Cups?
Menstrual cups are an ingenious alternative to pads, tampons or cloth. Cups are made of soft medical grade silicone and are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. They are reusable and each one lasts for ten years making them cost-effective and environmentally friendly. They are safe to use, comfortable and convenient for women and girls of all ages. Underwear is optional when using a menstrual cup. Only a cup of water is required to wash them so where water is scarce cups are often a better option than washable pads or cloth. All these features make the menstrual cup an excellent alternative for people on low incomes.
Although the use of menstrual cups is increasing in European and North American countries – elsewhere, little is known about their benefits. So, when menstrual cups are introduced to a community, clear information and education is essential to ensure they are understood and accepted as a viable option for the management of menstruation. Some people may be nervous about cups because they are inserted into the vagina. The introduction of menstrual cups must be accompanied by comprehensive and appropriate training; support for new cup users; and awareness raising and information in the whole community.
Key Advantages of Menstrual Cups
Why do we like menstrual cups so much? Menstrual Cups Are:
- Economical : Reusable, one cup lasts up to 10 years
- Safe: Made from medical-grade silicone, low risk of toxic-shock syndrome
- Convenient: Can stay in for up to 12 hours, capacity of 4 pads, underwear not required
- Comfortable: Once inserted properly the user cannot feel it
- Eco-Friendly: Zero solid or plastic waste
- Easy to Use and Clean: Very little water needed to clean it
- Private: No smell, less leaking or stained clothing
Plus, menstrual cups promote self-esteem by increasing comfort and confidence during everyday activities. In fact, this idea of “cup confidence” is part of the approach we take to empower girls and women in Burkina Faso by breaking the taboo around the subject of menstruation and enabling women to become more knowledgeable and comfortable with their own bodies.
Burkina’s 1st Cup Project
Thus far in its MHM programs, BARKA has worked with high school girls in Fada N’Gourma. In the new menstrual cup project, currently in development, we will focus on women in Ouagadougou. Our partners include Menstru’elles, a local social enterprise which will make cups available after this project, Femme International, a technical partner assisting with project design and monitoring and evaluation, and Sirona Cup.
Cups are distributed in kits consisting of a locally made drawstring pouch for safe and discreet storage, a small metal pan for boiling cups before use, and an instruction booklet for proper usage. In some circumstances it may be appropriate for each recipient to pay a small fee or provide some other in-kind contribution or service in exchange for their cup. This can help to ensure that the cup is treated as a valuable item. This will be further explored with community leaders and beneficiaries as we get closer to cup distribution.
BARKA works with leaders of the local government, faith-based community and traditional authorities to ensure that religious and political leaders are fully aware of the project and support it. Such endorsement, often from men in positions of power, is essential in order to increase adoption and acceptance of the program.
BARKA has sought input from within the community to inform us about the need for this intervention, to understand its likelihood for success, and to continue to guide us in its successful implementation. In fact, the overarching goal of this project is to enable a more favorable environment within Burkina Faso for future cup programming. We believe cups will revolutionise Menstrual Health programs in Burkina Faso and beyond.
BARKA and its partners will meet with key government ministries and stake holders to advocate on the importance of menstrual cups as an improved solution to address menstrual health and hygiene. Before and after the project, we will hold workshops with key stakeholders in order to extract key inputs for programming and data collection, specifically with regard to establishing importation, approval, standards, and future cup programming.
BARKA places MHM in general, and menstrual cup distribution specifically, within a larger context of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). In the intensive trainings that participating women will receive, we will not only cover issues of menstrual health and cup usage, trainers will also address key concepts of SRHR as it relates to them. Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGMC), Child, Early, Forced Marriage (CEFM) and Unwanted Pregnancy are common among Burkinabè women and will be addressed as a further way to empower cup users.
Participants will also benefit from future economic opportunities to continue to train others on cups through Menstru’elles’ social business. The project’s Trainers will be able to earn extra income as Cup Ambassadors by selling and introducing cups to other women. This is important for long-term sustainability.
This project will also build the capacity of local 10 health clinics (CSPS) and 5 local SRHR associations through the training of 30 community health workers and SRHR leaders. In future scale-up plans, this will be a powerful way to integrate the government (which oversees the CSPS health clinics) into cup programming through comprehensive MH training of its staff.
In June, 2020, Menstru’elles led a project entitled “Let’s Change Periods” to fight period poverty in Burkina Faso. At a training in Ouagadougou the following film was made which provides an idea of the excitement and enthusiasm of this breakthrough innovation in women’s health.