The Cup Kenya - a program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

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The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

The Cup is a new program which mission is to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments.

On MH day (Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28 May 2015) we launched our global campaign in Kibera Nairobi together with the radio station Ghetto Radio and one of Kenyas most popular young artist Bahati.

All school children age 9-16 in Kibera were invited and finally more than 3000 attended the celebration.

It was a real breaking of the taboo. Menstruation and challenges girls face were spoken about all in the open by the role models.

For more info about The Cup contact:

Camilla Wirseen
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or visit:
www.thecup.org
The Cup Kenya FB page
Twitter: #DignityForAllGirls

Article in The Star Kenya:
the-star.co.ke/news/could-menstrual-cups...ZvWYcb.5QLuqNU3.dpbs


See photos from launch:





Camilla

Camilla Wirseen
The Cup
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Dear Camilla,

Thanks for your post. So you have moved from Peepoo bags to menstrual cups? How come?
And how is your new project funded?

These two photos are pretty impressive, can you explain what is shown there? It is good to see men get involved in your awareness raising campaign!
The young male in the second photo must be a popular pop star to something in Kenya? Oh, wait, now I saw in your post: it is probably: one of Kenyas most popular young artists, Bahati

How many of these menstrual cups have you sold or given away so far? Which brand is it using? Are you using an existing brand (e.g. Diva Cup, Ruby Cup, Moon Cup) or your own brand? If the latter, does anything dinstinguish it from the other brands that I mentioned?

As a side note: For me personally, I think menstrual cups are awesome, for me it is the best alternative, far better than tampons or pads of any kinds. That's just my personal opinion; obviously different women have different preferences for all sorts of reasons.

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • Camilla
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Hi Elisabeth,

Thank you for your questions and interest in my new project The Cup.

Why I left Peepoople, well it just happened. I am a fighter and like to be in the front line. When identified in Kibera that so many girls were selling themselves for pads I was shocked. Some say 30 to 50% of the girls between 9-18 feel forced to have sex to get money for pads.

And my analyses say it is not only in Nairobi slums, it is a problem driven by poverty. When there is nothing available, the cloth, madrases are not there, newspaper doesn't work, mud, feathers neither, what does a girl do?! Parents are not there, she is alone and no one to talk to. To bleed is not an easy problem to handle.

And having sex for pads creates worse problems than missing school every month (even if you stay at home you still have to have something) but you can't perhaps tell your parents or the guardians you have your period, you can't stay at home.

The girls are risking their lives. What we have learned now since we have reached out to almost 1000 girls with The Cup program since February in Kibera is that girls don't use condoms, don't even know what they are, don't know what AIDS is, or how you get pregnant. The risk for catching a disease, becoming pregnant, doing illegal abortions, entering serious prostitution is huge.

And back to why I started this, I hadn't read or heard about this. So I thought there must be something that can be done. This is inhuman. Girls 9-14 are the most vulnerable in the society, they don't have a voice. And thought it must be possible to develop a program that is scale-able but on same time longterm, with little investment per girl, but with huge impact.

The Cup program is about more than providing a sustainable menstrual solution (menstrual cups). It is about education in life skills and providing mentorship support. All key while a girl grow up.

To support a girl with the Cup program costs only 20 USD. A cup lasts 10 years. Our training program takes place in four session over two weeks in schools. After the program the girls can turn to the team if they have problems or need help at anytime.We do follow ups after two months. The team put girls in touch with MSF if they need help with health problems or been raped (MSF provides counseling and medical support).

We have currently two teams in Kibera going from school to school. All trainers are from a similar background and have experienced the similar challenges while growing up. This creates trust between the girls and the trainers which enables the trainings to be more efficient and powerful. To talk about sex and reproductive health etc is delicate. We also work on team building with the girls and train them in human rights as well as show them how they can go to university etc.

The Swedish foundation Giving Wings have given support to reach out to 2000 girls during 2015 but my aim is to reach thousands and thousands of girls, like a movement.

To do this I and my partner have started a world campaign informing all women about menstrual cups. Our estimates say that less than 1% know of the menstrual cup in the world, which is crazy when it has so many advantages. All should know another option exists. We have partnered with some cup producers: Ruby Cup, Lunette and Mooncup. More cup makers will come on board. We market the "cup" and they give us menstrual cups for reduced price.

But the mission is to make a difference. The campaign also fundraises for underpriviliged girls and informs about the Cup program.

We launched the campaign on MH day. In Kibera we invited all children 9-16, boys and girls and parents to an event hosted by The Cup, Kewasnet and Ghetto Radio. The aim of using a popular artists and Ghetto Radio was to really try to break a taboo by having these role models/men talk to both boys and girls about menstruation and the girls problems etc. And it worked. More than 3000 came, mostly kids and I think it was a breaking of a taboo.

For more info please visit thecup.org
For updates from Kibera role out please follow The Cup Kenya Facebook page.

For any questions please write here or email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Camilla Wirseen
The Cup
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

What a wonderful. empowering project. Congratulations!

And on a personal note from me too, changing to a menstrual cup was such a worthwhile thing to do - I'm quite sad I've now reached the age where it isn't needed! My eldest daughter, a midwife, also uses one and tries to spread awareness amongst her mums.
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you for this post promoting the use of menstrual cups. Our team is interested to learn more, especially as an alternative to (improper) incineration of MHM materials. Could you provide references and views on the following:

In Asia where Sanitary pads/ cloths are the norm, tampons are not culturally acceptable and definitely not for unmarried girls even among the most educated of women. Is there any experience with use of menstrual cups in Asia?

Besides cultural acceptability, in situations where clean water and hygiene are major constraints- we assume that use of the devices comes with major risks. Has "Toxic Shock Syndrome" (documented with tampons and considered for any product inserted vaginally) been studied in the context of developing countries?


Best regards,

John Brogan
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Hi John

Our collaborative partnership (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine; Kenya Medical Research Institute, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Safe Water and AIDS Project) in western Kenya, recently completed a feasibility study following up girls provided menstrual cups, sanitary pads, or usual practice (control) in 30 rural primary schools for over a year. We had routine nurse screening, lab-confirmation studies,community and facility monitoring to check if girls could potentially acquire TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome); plus checking a swatch of used cups among staph aureus positive girls, for TSS-toxin 1. Within this pilot number (~200 girls) there was no adverse harms.

It is our understanding no TSS has been associated with cups because vaginal insertion does not dry the mucosal lining and thus does not cause micro-trauma (but do check with cup companies that have ongoing safety monitoring schemes that there are no cases). These safety results (not yet published) are sufficient for our UK funders to support now a much larger scale trial (~2000 girls), where we will also continue vigilance to contribute toward global safety data.
Hope this helps. You may also contact me directly if more questions, or just put them in this thread.

Penelope Phillips-Howard
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, L3 5QA, Liverpool, UK
Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Centre for Global Health Research, P.O.Box 1578, 40100 Kisumu, Kenya
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Dear Penelope,

Thanks for sharing news of your study and future research! We are seeing how to consider menstrual cups in the Asia context and I was wondering if you area aware of similar initiatives /points of contact in Asia?

Specifically:
In the homes and schools for your trial, is there enough clean water for girls to wash themselves and the cups?

According to my colleagues, in Asia menstruating women are considered "unclean", products used are used are hidden and not discussed. The topic itself is still very taboo. Did you have resistance on this front? (The colleagues find it difficult to imagine it being acceptable in Asian countries.)

What was the perception of the girls themselves towards this new product? Did they report preference over the previous products they used?

Very best regards,
John Brogan
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Hi John
Thanks for your response.

You are asking million dollar questions - first for (some) countries of Asia, indeed there are differing cultural dimensions. There are a number of colleagues working in development, NGO, government, and academic sectors who have accumulated much knowledge around this topic over many years (can pass on some contacts if needed). There are a few hundred published papers also. The general view when talking to professionals here is that menstrual cups would not be used by girls [saying they can only be used by 'married' women], but there is no evidence to show this either way. maybe they are right, but it would be good to validate. One paper in Nepalese schoolgirls (Oster and Thornton) suggests girls will use, I attach the file. We and some other colleagues would be keen to do an acceptability feasibility study should any funding be available.

Water and sanitation in schools and at home was not at a particularly high level in our Kenya study. We had a minimum threshold (see one of attached papers). Because of concerns of infection, we also provided hand wash detergent to schools and bar soap individually to all study girls to support hand-washing - we have WASH follow up data observations we are analyzing to see if soap etc was actually available at unannounced school spot-checks, and longitudinally measuring the level of WASH in school on the termly spot-check days.

Logistically we could not provide water but girls first, don't need to wash the cups every time they empty (just reinsert), and second girls themselves were (are) incredibly resourceful - they would bring their own bottle water in if the school was dry, or water was far from reach, to ensure they stayed clean and were not embarrassed.

Our experience in Kenya was that girls initially had concerns about using cups, and uptake took a little time, but they have so little resources that an opportunity to have something that helped them overcame these barriers - along with repeated study nurse training and also older aged girls peer support (a secondary school in same region had cups donated by charity over many years, so girls were our 'champions'). A second paper is attached on the qualitative findings describing this (Mason et al), and also one on the WASH conditions of the schools (we do have home WASH also, but will take a while to complete analysis).

Hope this helps
Anyone want to fund a menstrual cup acceptability study among girls - happy to hear from you!
best, Penny

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  • Camilla
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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Dear Penny,

Thank you for your input and sharing of information.

The cup has many advantages not only in these situations but for all women.

We focus a lot on hygiene in our trainings and girls do bring a bottle of clean water for rinsing the cup to schools, a bit like bringing water for washing when going to the toilet.

Camilla

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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Dear all,

Happy New Year!

Attaching The Cup Kenyas annual report which is describing the problems we fight with underprivliged girls in puberty are going through in Kenya and how our program is trying to help.

During 2015 we succeded in helping 2000 girls, 300 boys and inform 3200 parents.

We are now planning a scale up and writing a proposel with Umande Trust to reach 4000 girls + 4000 boys + parents + teachers + elders a month while schools are open with a team of only 30 girl trainers and 10 boy trainers. The program is very scaleable and effective.

For more info see attached Annual report.

Camilla

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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Hi Camilla,

I would like to know how more about how you involve and reach the boys? This wasn't explained in your annual report.

What age range are the boys, what messages do you give them and how have they been reacting?
I would assume quite positively, because maybe they're also happy about taboos being lifted and them getting better information about menstruation and women's reproductive cycles?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: The Cup Kenya - a new program on menstrual cups to educate and empower girls living in challenging environments

Thanks for this post, and for your great work. The photos are inspiring. We need to figure out a way to make cup education a routine part of any and all handwashing programs. Women of Sanitation......unite! This deserves all the attention we can give it. I'm going to take this on in two urban poor Districts in Accra, ideas? Experiences in how to get buy in?

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