The Ruby cup and MHM experiences from Kenya

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The Ruby cup and MHM experiences from Kenya

(Note from moderator: to read the conversation on the Ruby cup business idea that preceded this post please have a look here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/24-men...ess-idea-in-kenya#22)

Hello everyone!

It is so great with this vast interest about our project on the SuSaNa site. I haven´t been posting updates recently but now it is time for an update and comments on your questions that are really hitting the point.

Status of the Ruby Cup business is that we have established our corporate infrastructure here in Kenya, which took some time, have received our final version of the Ruby Cup and it is working great! We have received very positive feedback from wmen that tested the Ruby Cup in Nairobi:

“I was out an entire night with the Ruby Cup and I danced and danced and it didn’t leak!”, Bilha (24), University student, Nairobi.

“I inserted my Ruby Cup in the morning and in the afternoon, I was worried if it would leak but when I checked it, it wasn’t even half full”, Grace (27) working mother, Nairobi East-lands.



We also received our packaging (see the picture attached) and expect market entry by january/february next year. We are very excited!

In regards to the questions that Sally asked I will try to answer them as best as I can.

Sally, you mention hygiene and washing hands as a potential risk factor that could make the usage of Ruby Cup dangerous to girls and women in areas with water scarcity or even for girls and women that lack general education about handwashing and personal hygiene.

This is why we are working together with partner organisations, like Unicef WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) and begin in areas where education about these issues exist and where latrines and water supply is secured.

Also, our mission is to facilitate menstrual hygiene through education, which is why we are working with the direct sales models and peer-to-peer education in order to make sure that all our customers get the right education about menstrual hygiene and hygiene in general through our women vendors, who will be educated in these areas. We know that education about hygiene is crucial in order to ensure proper usage.

In regards to water, Unicef in fact conducted a study showing that in comparison to other menstrual hygiene products, a menstrual cup is the product requiring least water. In many poor communities, scarcity of water is a daily challenge. Compared to cloth or re-usable pads, Ruby Cup only uses water once a month for boiling, and is thus the solution that uses the least water.

The problem with re-usable pads are twofold: the water is scarce and not necessarily clean, so the pads are not being washed properly, which breeds bacteria. Also, they are not being hanged outside where the sun can dry them (which would sterilize them through the sunlight) but hid somewhere inside the house, where they don´t dry properly. The risk of infections from re-usable pads, it has been shown, is thus quite high in especially arid areas and where social stigma about menstrual hygiene are prevalent.

In regards to insertion, I will post the following quote by a woman from Kibera:

Joanne: "Here, there is no problem with inserting something, but I think it takes some time for me to get used to it. But if I have other women I can ask, I know this will be okay and even more healthy for me” Kibera, Kenya, June 13th, 2011

Insertion is an issue in some communities and not so much in others. This is a risk for our business, but our ambition is only to provide one solution to women and girls that really need it and that feel comfortable with inserting something. We know that a menstrual cup will not be used by every single girl/woman in Kenya and other developing countries, just like some prefer pads over tampons. We will be happy if we can help some girls and women with our product and totally accept the fact that for others pads (re-usable or biodegradable) are the preferred solution.


Also, you touch upon virginity, or more correctly, the intactness of the hymen that is required before marriage in many regions and cultures. The menstrual cup cann affect the hymen as well as doing sports or riding a matatu can potentially break it. We communicate oplenly that if girls are concerned about their hymen, they should not use the Ruby Cup before their first sexual intercourse. For most girls and women that we have talked to, however, the hymen was not an issue. However, we need to communicate open how the Ruby Cup may affect it.

For your interest:
The cultural acceptability has been tested through three studies (formal and informal). From 2008 – 2010, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) made a formal study with a sample size of 55 school girls and 45 women in urban slums in Kenya and the findings included that acceptability of a menstrual cup was 97% positive.

Moreover, there exists one school in Western Kenya, where menstrual cups are donated informally by a British woman. Girls choose this school over others precisely because they receive a menstrual cup, which allows them to attend school without worrying about leakages.

Finally, through a partnership between a Swedish NGO and a Kenyan young woman, the acceptability of menstrual cups was tested on five secondary schools around Nairobi, with 10 girls on each school, receiving extremely positive feedback and demand from other girls, which she was unfortunately unable to attend, due to lack of affordable menstrual cups on the market in East Africa.

That said, in general, the Ruby Cup business is a learning experience for all of us and we will take it step by step with close monitoring about the implications of providing Ruby Cups to girls and women in Kenya. We do not wish to do any harm. We wish to help and if we achieve doing so through the Ruby Cup, we have helped to make a little difference in this world and to girls and women that today struggle with accessing sanitary products.

Warmest greetings from Nairobi!!

Maxie
Maxie Matthiessen
Co-Founder of Ruby Cup by Makit Ltd
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+49 (0)176 2765 2953

www.ruby-cup.com
www.facebook.com/rubycup
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