Health

Menstruation Matters!

Every 28 days, women and girls of all ethnicities, races, sizes, religions, and nationalities experience the same thing:

PERIODS.

For those of us living in high-income countries, we may get annoyed or even a bit moody when our beloved “Aunt Flow” comes to town, but we never lack access to essential, sanitary, and seemingly “life-saving” feminine products (i.e. tampons and/or pads).

As it turns out, feminine products are not seemingly life-saving, but actually life-saving – at least from an educational and economic standpoint. In 2010, UNICEF estimated approximately 10 percent of African adolescent girls do not attend school while menstruating. For those girls, keeping up with class lessons becomes an incredible challenge, as they inevitably miss a staggering 20 percent of school days. As a result, many female students drop out of school upon reaching puberty. Additional reasons for high female dropout rates include the fear of being ridiculed by their peers while menstruating, a lack of knowledge about the menstrual cycle, and a lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools. Fortunately, WomanCare Global recently announced its plan to improve global feminine hygiene.

Image Courtesy of WomanCare Global

Partnering with Evofem, a California-based bio-technology company, WomanCare Global aims to market, sell, and distribute their feminine hygiene products Amphora and Softcup to women and girls around the world.

Image Courtesy of AmphoraAmphora, a hormone-free, non-invasive contraceptive vaginal gel, is currently in Phase III of an extensive global clinical trial where it, thus far, has proven effective at protecting against unwanted pregnancies and various forms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – including HIV.

Image Courtesy of SoftcupOn the other hand, Softcup serves as a reliable alternative to tampons or pads, with over 120 million sold to date. A flexible cup worn internally around the cervix, Softcup collects (rather than absorbs) the menstrual flow, thereby eliminating any potential odor. Available in both reusable and disposable options, the Softcup can be worn for up to 12 hours and has a zero incidence rate of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Durable, flexible,and comfortable, one reusable Softcup could potentially last for an entire period.

What do products like Amphora and Softcup mean for women and girls in the developing world?

Because Amphora has been deemed effective at protecting against unwanted pregnancy and/or STIs, sexually-active women and girl users in low-income countries are better able to enjoy consensual sexual intercourse rather than fear its consequences.

For young female students, modern feminine hygiene products like Softcup equate to an increased school attendance rate and the potential to attain a high-level education, thus opening the door to widespread career opportunities and higher incomes. Similarly, adult women obtain an enhanced sense of freedom and independence by using products like Softcup, as they no longer have to constantly worry about most effectively timing bathroom breaks.

As a result, adult women using modern feminine hygiene products demonstrate a heightened ability to increase time spent working, to earn higher incomes, and to support their family – both economically and emotionally.

Planning on attending the 2013 Women Deliver Conference? You can learn more about the benefits of Amphora and Softcup from Saundra Pelletier, CEO of WomanCare Global and Evofem. Look out for their “Speaker’s Corner Session” at Exhibit Hall 2 on Wednesday, May 29th from 12:15-12:30 p.m.

For more information, please visit:

UNICEF & Education: Menstruating Girls

WomanCare Global Press Release

“No Pads, No School: Girls’ Education Going Down the Toilet,” Think Africa Press

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Category: Health
Tagged with: amphora    education    Empowerment    evofem    Girl's empowerment    menstrual cycle    period    Reproductive Health    sexual health    softcup    Women    Women's Empowerment    womencare global

Elisabeth Epstein

Hi everyone! I recently earned my Master’s degree in International Development from The New School in New York City in May 2012. With a concentration in International Development and Global Health, I have worked behind the scenes as a Research Intern for the PBS documentary Half the Sky in addition to serving as the Research and Advocacy Intern for The Hunger Project. Globally, I have taught English to kindergartners in China, have researched clean water and HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and have gained first-hand experience understanding how migrants and refugees deal with public health issues in both Mexico and Thailand. I am especially interested in food security, nutrition and hunger and the role of women and girls in each of these issues. In my free time, I enjoy playing with my ever-so-fluffy Siberian Husky, eating delicious food, training for marathons and traveling. Follow me on Twitter @E_Epstein!

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  • Reblogged this on Feministing in the South and commented:
    I think this is a highly overlooked issue, and I am glad to see a movement happening behind it! It’s unfair, and inhumane, that women do not have free access to pads/tampons/etc., while men have various resources for free condoms. That is not to say that making condoms readily available is not beneficial for both sexes, it is! However, a man has the power to keep his dick in his pants; women are not afforded the luxury of keeping our uterine lining in our vaginas.

    • Elisabeth Epstein

      We agree, more attention must be paid to this issue. Thank you so much for spreading the word!

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  • amanda

    Why can’t the girls be taught to make their own mesturation cloth pads that are reusable ?

    • Elisabeth Epstein

      Hi Amanda. Thank you for your comment. They can definitely learn to make their own cloth pads! Here is one example of women doing just that. http://ow.ly/kPgyU

    • This doesn’t address teaching girls to make their own reusable pads, but there are organizations and companies that make reusable pads and sell or donate them to girls in need. The two I know off of the top of my head are Huru http://www.huruinternational.org/ and AFRIpads http://afripads.com/. I’m willing to bet there are others; I just don’t know of them.

  • Sophie

    Why aren’t you giving them away for free!?

  • The lack of understanding when it comes to menstruation, amongst and between girls, as well as the huge amounts of school missed because of menstrual cycles is a huge, issue, and I’m glad to see it addressed. I’m curious about a few things, though. In the poorest areas, there aren’t landfills, so in such an area, I wonder how the girls dispose of a one-time-use product such as Softcups (or any other disposable product that might be donated). And, it’s my understanding (though this may be different from area to area) that in many parts of the developing world, internal devices–such as tampons and menstrual cups–used for menstruation are simply not allowed for girls or unmarried women. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of the program! I am just curious about how this program works around, or with, such limitations.

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