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Disruption of education. Sickness. Curses brought onto the family. Anxiety. Fear. Death… These are a few of the actual and believed consequences of cultural taboos and lack of education in the developing world surrounding something as natural as… a woman’s menstrual cycle.

This is unacceptable. It’s time for a REVOLUTION.

 

Together, let’s break the stigmas and empower women around the globe so they can be confident, knowledgeable and healthy. 

Read on to learn about how we are changing the world of girls and women in developing nations through a successful partnership with Ruby Cup, a company that is making a world of difference.

The Issue:

Menstruation is a universal experience among women. Despite this worldwide prevalence, it is also a globally stigmatized issue – a topic of embarrassment that people prefer to disregard. Around the world, different cultures have adopted harmful and dangerous beliefs and practices surrounding menstruation. Consequently, there is a disturbing lack of health education resources available to young women (and men) about the menstrual cycle. As a direct result, this lack of knowledge continues harmful myths and taboos that isolate and shame women during their monthly cycles.

Issue #1: Lack of Menstrual & Reproductive Health Education

Cultural taboos around the world often prevent menstruation from being a topic that is discussed freely, since it is seen as a dirty and unlucky part of being a woman that should be hidden. This leads to a damaging ignorance that forces girls to figure out how to deal with their cycles on their own. This also means that girls and women don’t realize that the presence of their cycle means that they are healthy and normal, and prevents them from having a sense of self-confidence that they deserve. The more that girls and women understand what is happening to them, and the fact that it is a completely normal part of being a woman, the better equipped and healthier they will be.

Issue #2: Damaging Cultural Taboos & Stereotypes

Though the stigma of discussing menstrual cycles is being broken down in the western world, harmful taboos and stereotypes remain abundant in the developing nations. Menstruating women are largely thought of as “untouchables.” They are regarded by others and themselves as impure, dirty and unlucky. If they do certain things that break the rules of the menstrual taboos such as entering restricted rooms, touching people, consuming specific foods or crossing designated rivers, bad fortune is supposed to affect their families. These traditional beliefs are deep-seated and difficult to break. As access to education improves as areas become more developed, these traditions often begin to fade. So there is hope that education is a solution.

Issue #3: Lack of Menstrual Management Materials & Facilities

Local poverty is a serious issue when trying to access materials and facilities to safely and efficiently manage one’s menstrual cycle in the developing world. This means that the products we take for granted in the western world such as sanitary pads and tampons simply aren’t available, or are prohibitively expensive. This compels girls to find ways to manage their own flow using any means necessary to avoid the embarrassment of leakage, foul odor and stains. This often results in the usage of dirty cotton, school papers, newspapers, leaves, rags, corn husks, tree bark - just about anything that is on hand. These materials, which are commonly dirty, abrasive or bacteria-ridden, can harm a woman’s genital region, resulting in mild to major infection.

Issue #4: Girls Missing School During their Period

Countless school girls around the world skip school regularly every month when they have their period. This is often because they don’t have the proper materials to regulate their flow and they don’t have anywhere to change or dispose of pads or keep clean. The taboos of certain cultures also prevent girls from attending school because they aren’t allowed to touch other people, be around men, or cross certain rivers. Regularly missing so much school negatively impacts a student’s education. It makes it hard for them to keep up academically, which often results in a high rate of school dropout among girls, lower grades, a lack of interest in their studies and failure to pursue higher education.

Cultural Taboos Surrounding Menstruation around the World

  • Nepal

    Chhaupadi is a centuries-old ritual that is now illegal but still widely practiced in Nepalese culture in remote areas of Nepal. This dangerous tradition enforces severe conditions on menstruating women. For the duration of their menstrual cycles they are relegated to sleeping in menstrual huts. They are not allowed to touch family members, water sources, most healthy foods, livestock, or enter areas of worship or certain areas of the home. Sleeping in these outdoor shacks has lead to rape, sickness, and death of women and their children from exposure, animal attack and smoke inhalation from starting fires in the confined unventilated areas to keep warm.

  • Ghana

    In many areas of rural Ghana, women are not allowed to cross certain rivers while they are menstruating. They are forbidden to enter certain dwellings and cook for men.

  • Venezuela

    Women are forced to sleep in menstrual huts for the duration of their periods.

  • Islamic Tradition

    Menstruating women are forbidden from praying, touching their holy books, and participating in certain religious ceremonies and traditions.

  • India

    Women are prevented from touching cows, seen as holy animals, during their periods.

  • Southeast Asia

    Many communities deny menstruating women from using the same water sources as everyone else for fear of contamination.

  • Kenya

    In the Masai tribe women are not allowed to enter goat pens or milk cows for the duration of their menstrual cycle, due to the fear that they will contaminate the animals and milk. Further, they are not allowed to consume animal products during this time.

Our Plan:

Our solution to these longstanding and deep-rooted problems is actually quite simple. We are utilizing a grassroots educational approach – having local women provide local girls and women with menstruation education and donated menstrual cups.

  • Menstrual Health Education

    The primary key to changing minds and practices is education. Girls need to know how their bodies work, and how to best manage their cycles. To this end, we are providing this vital information to young women in a series of small workshops with a fun, secure atmosphere where all questions are welcome and open dialogue is encouraged. When this critical knowledge is thoroughly presented in their own language by trusted local women teachers who are open-minded, educated and understanding, true learning can take place.

  • Menstrual Management Materials

    It can be difficult and embarrassing to obtain, clean, or dispose of menstrual products. In developing nations, purchasable disposable options are largely prohibitively expensive. Locally sourced or made disposable options such as rags and newspaper can be unsanitary and ineffective. In the context of communal cultures where many things and spaces are shared among community members, it is often difficult to secure privacy to take care of these issues with dignity. When you hand-wash your period rags and hang them on the line to dry, everyone knows that you are having your monthly cycle. We have partnered up with a socially conscious business called Ruby Cup, which is generously helping us solve this issue by donating menstrual cups to our project.

Project Locations

Nepal & Ghana

Khanidanda, a village in the municipality of Waling in the Syangja District of Nepal and Bongo District, Upper East Region, Ghana

Our Project Partners

Located in Nepal & Ghana

Shree Saraswati Secondary School & ASIGE

Local Teachers and an American Peace Corps Volunteer in the Shree Saraswati Secondary School in Nepal and Dorcas Asige Apoore of ASIGE: Advocacy for Social Inclusion and Girls Education in Ghana

Frequently Asked Questions:

A menstrual cup is long-lasting, eco-friendly silicone alternative to tampons or sanitary pads. This small, flexible cup is made of medical grade silicone and eliminates the need for frequent changing. Instead of absorbing your flow, like other menstrual products, it catches and collects it. Each cup is reusable and can be used for ten years straight, obviating the expense and waste incurred by other methods. This hygienic, easy, and comfortable way to manage cycles might also make it easier for girls and women to avoid the dangers, embarrassment and hindrances of current cultural norms. 

Absolutely! Due to their eco-friendly, cost-saving, healthy and comfortable nature, menstrual cups are taking off all over the world, especially in developed nations.

Tampons and pads are disposables. They’re only meant to be used one time, and then they are thrown away. They take up a lot of space in landfills and are a big component of pollution. The average woman uses over 11,000 tampons over her lifetime, leaving behind residue far beyond her lifespan, especially when they’re wrapped up in plastic. Feminine hygiene waste can take centuries to biodegrade! Menstrual cups are made from silicone, a material that comes from silica, a type of sand, and when it slowly degrades it returns to it’s original state which isn’t hazardous to the environment. They also have a long, reusable lifespan. Menstrual cups can be used, cleaned, and re-used for an average of 10 years before they need to be replaced.

Menstrual cups are widely available in the online marketplace, though we particularly love Ruby Cup, because of their social-conscious, world-changing business model which donates cups to projects like ours in the developing world through their buy-one-give-one model. Check them out here.

The biggest way that you can help is to support Ruby Cup’s Buy One, Give One program by ordering your own menstrual cup! This allows them to work with organizations like us to get rid of terrible menstrual stereotypes.

Photo credits: Thank you to Zachary Williams from www.orphanednation.com for his excellent photos of our teachers and beneficiaries in Nepal!

Together, we can change the world. Today, let's change the world of young women in Nepal and Ghana.

Together we can change the world. Today let's change the world of one village., orphan., family., student., farmer., ecosystem.