FRANCISTOWN: Menstruation is a hugely overlooked barrier to development and it has a significant impact on education, gender dynamics, equality and basic human dignity.
Women in Botswana and other third world countries have been limited to two options to consider when it comes to menstrual products currently available in the market: tampons and sanitary pads. These products have met their rival in the form of the menstrual cup.
Regardless of the initial thought to a cup as a menstrual solution, it is cost effective, eco-friendly, toxic free and exceptionally comfortable qualities have caused for it to be welcomed and adopted into first world countries decades ago, granting women great freedom.
Menstrual cups are considered to be the most sustainable, healthy and affordable option to deal with menstruation.
Mmegi reporter met with one of the sole distributors of menstrual cup under Ruby Cup International, Janine Naicker to learn more about this award winning invention.
Naicker said she started using the menstrual cup last September and would never go back to using any other menstrual products, even if someone paid her.
She was so impressed with her new-found freedom that she wanted other women to experience the same and therefore decided to start distributing Ruby Menstrual cups towards the end of last year.
Naicker said that even though periods are associated with every woman, they are still nervous to speak openly about menstruation and other issues centering around sex.
“In Botswana it is a taboo to speak about menstruation. This must change. We need to speak openly about the facts as education is crucial to making the right decisions. I’m passionate about talking about this subject and others as information is power,” she said.
When speaking about the Ruby menstrual cup, Naicker explained that the cup is made of 100% medical grade silicone and completely hypoallergenic.
She also said that the cup has three times the capacity of a super tampon and is available in two sizes: small and medium.
She added that the menstrual cup aids in maintaining the vagina’s natural bacterial balance and moisture.
Naicker said menstrual cup, unlike sanitary pads and tampons, does not absorb menstrual fluid and therefore does not cause dryness, irritation and unwanted smells.
“The high quality medical grade silicone contains no harmful absorbency gels, additives or perfumes. There is no risk of side effects nor toxic shock syndrome with the use of the Ruby cup,” she said.
She also said the cup is very easy to use and women of all ages could only benefit from the freedom it offers, as one only has to change it twice a day.
“The cup is folded in half and easily inserted into the vaginal canal where it is positioned to collect blood for up to 12 hours during menses. Once full the cup is then removed, emptied, rinsed and re-inserted. It’s that easy” she explained.
Naicker said to ensure hygiene and the longevity of the product, the cup is to be sterilised after every menstrual period by boiling it in water for five minutes.
Naicker revealed that on average a woman uses between 400 - 480 menstrual products (including panty liners) a year and approximately 12, 000 – 14, 000 in her lifetime.
She added that tampons and sanitary pads are not biodegradable and therefore pose a huge health and environmental risk globally as sanitary landfills struggle to keep up.
Naicker also explained that ruby cup is a very affordable alternative to disposable menstrual hygienic products because it is a once-off investment that will last for 10 years.
She indicated that since the menstrual cup is a once-off purchase of P450 lasting a decade, it works out to a mere P45 a year. Currently, a woman spends close to P40 on sanitary pads or tampons per month alone. She extrapolated that this will add up to a cost of well over P4,800 over a 10-year period (excluding inflation).
Naicker said that one of the main reasons why she chose to become a Ruby Cup ambassador is because of the Buy one Give one Programme that Ruby Cup has implemented.
“Studies have shown that girls miss up to 20% of their schooling because they stay home out of fear of leaking during their period. This absenteeism causes some girls to drop out of school entirely which simply fuels the poverty cycle,” she said
Naicker said without proper sanitary products, girls and women are forced to use degrading substitutes like old newspapers, toilet paper and rags, which is unhygienic and can lead to serious health problems.
“This is unacceptable and can be changed with the adoption of the Ruby Cup as it would alleviate the economic burden of buying menstrual products on a monthly basis.”
Naicker said this programme has already been successfully implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Nepal and that she is in the process of negotiating with Ruby Cup International and the government so that girls and women in Botswana could also benefit from this initiative.
Sexual Reproductive Health coordinator for greater Francistown, Caroline Setshego said when Naicker introduced her to the menstrual cup, it changed her whole menstrual experience.
“Once the cup is placed correctly, it causes a suction avoiding leaking and can comfortably last for 12 hours. The best part is that you will not feel uncomfortable and wet and that one is flexible to participate in all activities including marathons, gym and swimming,” she said.
She also said menstruating women need to pay particular attention to personal hygiene during their menstrual cycle.
Setshego said during this time, a woman’s vulnerability towards potentially life-threatening ailments increases.
She cautioned against incorrect menstrual hygiene could lead to fungal or bacterial infections of the reproductive tract and the urinary tract.
She confirmed Naicker’s claim that the harmful chemicals found in tampons and sanitary pads can negatively affect the delicate fauna and flora of the vaginal canal and lead to many health issues.
Family Wellness clinic Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr Lozhkarova, Victoria said that she is not aware of the menstrual cups, but is keen to learn more about them as other gynecologists have approved the use of this product.
She however encourages local women to always consult with their gynecologist’s before using the product.