So, tell us about The Cup Effect…
How did the idea for The Cup Effect come about?

When and how did cups first come to your attention?
Did you personal experience shape the way The Cup Effect does business?
What excites you about what is on the horizon for The Cup Effect?
And what about some of the challenges you face as an organisation?
What motivates you?
How can people who are inspired by The Cup Effect’s mission help or get involved?

So, tell us about The Cup Effect…
We are a lean, mean NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) and not-for-profit Social Enterprise that is registered with the Charity Commission in the UK. Very simply, our mission is to raise awareness about menstrual cups and make them more widely available – especially in places where women and girls would benefit most from having access to them. Whilst most of our ‘frontline work’ currently takes place in Kenya and Malawi, we have ambitions to expand into other African countries, and across the world. We are energetic, passionate, and totally committed to doing our bit to empower women and girls (particularly those who live in low-income communities), whilst simultaneously striving to protect the planet.

How did the idea for The Cup Effect come about?
Not long after discovering and using a cup for the first time, I found myself reflecting on conversations I’d had with my mother about her perilous and frankly humiliating experiences of dealing with her “menses” as a teenager in a rural community in Malawi in the early 70’s. It occurred to me that if a cup made a discernable difference to me living a relatively pampered and privileged life in London, it could potentially be a game-changer in parts of the world where women and girls (and whole communities) face profound challenges and difficulties.

When and how did cups first come to your attention?
The very first time I encountered a cup was in 2008, when my sister showed one to me over dinner. I had absolutely no idea what it was and when she explained it to me, I remember laughing and saying: “No way! You’re going to put that… where?”.

She calmly repeated her explanation, and suggested that if I wasn’t convinced I should try using one myself!

Naturally, I gave it a go… and I can honestly say it improved my quality of life almost immediately, plus I loved the idea of not spending any money on pads or tampons, and having waste-free periods!

Did your personal experience shape the way The Cup Effect does business?
Yes, absolutely! The first conversation I ever had about a cup was with my sister – to begin with, I was very sceptical and dismissive, but because we trust and are comfortable with one another, and because she had used a cup herself… I was able to move past my hesitation and objections pretty quickly. I am determined to ensure that The Cup Effect’s distribution model replicates, as far as possible, this intimate sisterly dynamic. When planning a distribution into a new area, our first step is always to identify local partner organisations that already work with and have the trust of the women and girls in their community. Next, we do an initial distribution to women who work for that organisation. The idea is to identify women from the first group who are able to use a cup successfully, and have them act, effectively, as “Big Sisters” who lead the next phase of distribution to larger groups of women and girls from the community.

What excites you about what’s on the horizon for The Cup Effect?
One of the things that excites me most is that the ‘market place’ we’ve entered is fairly uncluttered… there are relatively few organisations (given the scale of the need) mobilised on the ground, doing what we do. Over the period ahead (no pun intended!), I am looking forward to making the economic case for why in many scenarios cups are an optimal intervention. Think of the billions of dollars being invested in global programmes to educate girls and empower women, think of the hundreds of millions of women and girls all around the world right now who are dealing with the gruelling challenges of living in poverty, whilst simultaneously grappling with and suffering economic and social consequences from the fact that they don’t have the means to manage their period in a way that allows them to fulfil their potential. The time is ripe for all manner of operational and investment partnerships to expand the reach and impact our work which will put us on the path towards making tangible improvement to the quality of life of literally millions of women and girls. I’m excited by that, how could I not be?

And what about some of the challenges you face as an organisation?
There is the inevitable challenge of fundraising and generating income by selling cups and via other means. There are also challenges related to PR and how to get the message out about such a ‘hidden’ topic – both in Britain, other affluent countries, and internationally. Even people – both men and women – who consider themselves to be very liberal, broad-minded, and progressive often struggle to talk openly about periods. I think this explains why it’s been such a neglected topic in the international development sector and elsewhere.

What motivates you?
That’s an easy question! The feedback we get from the women and girls we’ve worked with so far has been overwhelmingly positive… hearing first-hand from them the difference this very simple idea has made to their quality of life never, ever fails inspire me! It’s can be all the more satisfying because often the initial reaction we get, in the first few minutes of the idea being introduced can be lukewarm, or even bordering on hostile. It’s hugely gratifying to see negative attitudes dissolve and be replaced by curiosity, which in turn evolves into enthusiasm – which generates interest and demand, often more demand than we’re currently able service! I can’t think of anything more motivating than knowing that the women we exist to serve appreciate our work and want to see others in their communities – their daughters, friends, or sisters – benefit from it too. It makes me feel like I have no choice but to do everything I can to grow and expand the reach and impact of The Cup Effect.

How can people who are inspired by The Cup Effect’s mission help or get involved?
There are so many ways! We need help raising the volume, and amplifying the message of our work and the issue in general… so tell your friends, family, and everyone in your network about The Cup Effect, or invite us to speak at an event you are hosting. Consider buying a cup from us – for yourself or as a gift for someone. Make a one-off or regular donation to enable us to reach more women and girls. If you are a social media whizz and are able to volunteer your time to help us boost our online presence and profile… please do get in touch. If you are have links to academic institutions that could help us develop and refine our approach to evaluating and demonstrating the impact of our work… we want to hear from you. If you are a photographer or filmmaker looking for a great project to document – let’s talk! If you are a philanthropist, grant maker, or fundraising expert and have ideas, leads, or an offer that could help us expand to work to reach more women and girls… we would absolutely love to hear from you. Or if you can offer in-kind support or have other ideas or suggestions for how you can get involved – don’t hesitate, we’re all ears! Contact us here.

If you have a question about our work, please contact us here. You can also visit our get involved page to find out how you can support or contribute to our work, or make a donation here. 

 

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