Let me guess. If you are a human being conscious about the footprint that humankind leaves on our Mother Earth every day; ‘strive to be more environmentally responsible’ is pretty high up on your New Year’s resolutions list. According to the US Government, being more environmentally friendly, improving physical well-being, improving mental wellbeing, strengthening your finances, being more physically active; are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year.
What if you could obtain all of this with one simple object? What if I told you that a menstrual cup could help you achieve all of these resolutions at the start of your next period?
These four reasons to give menstrual cups a try aren’t just about living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. They’re about helping women and girls around the world to empower themselves through choice, ditching the stigma that years of oppression and patriarchy have forced upon us and our bodies.
1. Take Care of Mother Earth
The average woman will menstruate for 8.2 years in her lifetime, that’s around 3,000 days. What does this mean? Waste!
Before trying a menstrual cup, I used an average of 4 pads per day (yeah, I have a heavy flood, kind of like a scene from the Shining!). It means in my lifetime, I will end up using about of 12,000 pads – his equates to two minibuses full of waste
Now, imagine if every woman on the planet uses pads or tampons. Currently, there are 3,802,863,740 women in the world. Imagine the amount of waste that we are collectively creating through the use of traditional menstrual products. Pads that contain the same amount of plastic as four plastic bags. Tampons which contain polyester and rayon, plus cotton that has been growing in farms whose waste can contribute to water contamination due to runoff and pesticides.
The majority of pads and tampon will end up in a landfill, taking up to 500 years to biodegrade. Many will find their way into our oceans, polluting our waterways, oceans and rivers, or clogging our sewers, or being incinerated. Not to mention that a year’s worth of disposable period products leaves a carbon footprint of 5.3 kg CO2 equivalent.
However, earth’s blood is not just in our hands. Who can blame us for using the menstrual products that we know? Other alternatives, such as menstrual cups, are rarely even mentioned in education curriculums and the breadth of choice available to us forms but a small part of our daily conversation.
A menstrual cup can be reused time and time again, lasting for up to ten years and saving countless menstrual products from landfill.
Did you know?
Menstrual cups are made of Silicone, a material derived from silica (a type of sand), the second most abundant mineral of Earth’s crust.
2. Reconnect With Your Body and Your Menstrual Cycle
Society teaches us to feel ashamed of our female bodies and to feel shame of a natural process that is essential for us to create life. We feel less disgust seeing a Tarantino movie than seeing blood from our own body. We secretly ask for a pad or a tampon from our best friends in the classroom, at work, or in social events, like we are trading an illicit substance. And then when we buy menstrual products in the supermarket, before paying for our pack of pads or tampons we check that no one is watching.
Periods are a taboo all around the world and from a very young age, we carry the “responsibility” to hide our female nature. Not to mention that around the world, some cultural and religious beliefs limit women to do daily -basis activities whilst on their period such as praying, or nutrition depravations.
A menstrual cup not only helps you to learn about your body and reconnect with yourself but it also teaches you about your menstrual cycle. How much blood do you have during your period, what colour is it, what does it look like?.
Once we stop hiding and feeling a sense of shame about a natural process, we will start loving our bodies in all aspects and situations, in every change and in every cycle.
A menstrual cup empowers to women to understand, accept and be amazed by the power and magic of our bodies. Once we love our body, we also start to be more careful about the products that we insert into our body. Traditional menstrual products such as tampons and pads are often made with harmful synthetics and chemicals that may lead to severe infections and other health risks.
3. Discover True Period Freedom
Women can do anything whilst bleeding at the same time.
With a menstrual cup, you can forget about worrying about bathrooms every two hours to check if your pad has moved, or if your tampon needs changing already. You can spend up to 12 hours using a menstrual cup and carry on with all your normal activities in between.
For me, this has been a life-saving advantage. Here in Senegal, I am moving from one place to another every day. Clean and sanitised public bathrooms are hard to find. I put my menstrual cup during the morning when I am showering, I come back home to have lunch, and it is my perfect opportunity to empty, clean and reinsert my menstrual cup, and then in the night, I do the same, before going to eight straight hours sleep without worrying about blood stains in my bed next day.
With a menstrual cup, things like travel, running, swimming and dance, all while you bleed makes your menstrual cycle just a normal part of your life. The power of menstrual cups is that we start to normalise menstruation because our activities are not restricted anymore. So, as a result, we stop having uncomfortable periods.
4. Support Women and Girls Around The World
Many women and girls across the globe don’t have access to pads or tampons, or any menstrual products at all, simply because they either cannot afford to buy them or they are not readily available. This is a problem that affect women all around the world, women in refugee camps, and women in prison, that often are targets of human right violations, including deprivation of proper sanitation while they have their periods. Instead, women that cannot afford pads. tampons or other products, are using alternatives materials such as cloth, mattress stuffing, feathers, toilet paper, animal hide, bark or newspaper. These methods can be unreliable and very uncomfortable and have been known to cause health problems including rashes, irritation, or infections as well as embarrassing leaks.
According to the World Bank, at least 500 million women and girls globally lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management (MHM), meaning that they are unable to manage their menstrual health in a safe and dignified way due to inadequate WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) facilities, particularly in public spaces, such as schools, workplaces, health centres, etc. However, good infrastructure and lack of resources are not the only problems when it comes to having a healthy period. In fact, some cultures consider women impure while they are menstruation, making them targets of discrimination and systematic exclusion.
Girls from low-income countries will miss school 20% of the time due to lack of access to menstrual products, whilst UNICEF estimates that one in 10 school-age African girls doesn’t attend school during menstruation. Indeed, in many countries around the world, menstruation and the silence surrounding this topic limit girls and women from fully and equally participating in daily social activities such as education, work, cultural and religious practices. As a result, women are often undermined, harming both their social status and self-esteem. The taboos and stigmas attached to menstrual result in limited information and lack of education about menstruation and hygiene, which can lead to health problems, and violations to human rights, such as guarantee dignity, privacy, and security to manage your period.
The work that The Cup Effect does across East Africa and the UK does much more than simply provide a menstrual cup to women and girls. The Cup Effect also facilitates conversations and information about menstrual cycles and proper menstrual health management, breaking stigmas and taboos surrounding a topic that should be normalised in order to give back dignity to women around the world.
When you buy a menstrual cup with The Cup Effect, you are not only giving two menstrual cups to a community that lacks resources to manage a safe period, you are also giving knowledge to a mother, a daughter, a community about a normal cycle of female nature.
So, as you see, using a menstrual cup doesn’t only help you have a more ethical period but it also empowers women around the world, to love their bodies, to normalise a natural cycle, and to feel proud for being a woman. Menstruation is a ritual we share with almost a billion others across the world. It is time to stop shaming ourselves. It is time to embrace our period, and to support and love each other, in a time that we see more blood in wars, streets, and movies that in our own toilets.
Salomé Valdivieso is an UWCRCN alumni from Ecuador currently taking a gap year with Global Citizen Year in Senegal. She is passionate about poetry, social justice, feminism and equality. Salomé has been involved with various environmental, and gender equality activist youth movements throughout her school life, such as Yasunidos and Movimiento Juventud Contracorriente. She hopes to later study Sociology and work with indigenous communities in Ecuador.